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Model Sparks Outrage With Nude Photo On Sacred Mountain

| by Michael Doherty

A model from New Zealand has sparked controversy after she posed nude for a photo on top of a mountain sacred to Maori culture.

In the image, Jaylene Cook, 25, is on the mountain wearing only shoes, gloves and a hat. The photo, taken during a April 26 hike on Mount Taranaki by Cook's boyfriend, 27-year-old Josh Shaw, has drawn criticism from those who say that it is disrespectful to the Maori culture, according to Daily Mail.

"I'd imagine you will be getting a few comments from people saying what's wrong with that? Who cares?" said Maori academic Dennis Ngawhare. "But I also know cousins and relatives who will be quite upset about it. They would consider it as being disrespectful towards the mountain."

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"I accept people climb up to the summit, but what we do ask is that people be respectful," Ngawhare added.

"It's culturally insensitive and not what I would expect someone to do on the summit of Mount Taranaki," said Stratford Mayor Nail Volzke, according to Stuff.co.nz.

Cook, who also works as a Playboy playmate, said the photo was not intended to be offensive, adding that she and Shaw had researched the mountain beforehand.

"[The photo is] not crude or explicit in any way," the model said. "We made ourselves knowledgeable on the history of the mountain. We were quite respectful. Being nude is not something that is offensive in any way. It's natural and pure and it's about freedom and empowerment."

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The pair were visiting Taranaki when they decided to climb the mountain, said Cook.

"It was Josh's idea. We thought that it couldn't be too tough," she said. "So, we went to [climbing] shops to get some warm clothes. We started at 2 a.m. It was tougher than we thought. I've never hiked before."

"The sun up there was so beautiful that day, so it was not so bad," she said. According to Cook, the top of the mountain was around 12 degrees Fahrenheit. She added that the couple waited for other hikers to clear out before they took the photo.

"If someone did get a sneak peek they would have been a bit startled, that's for sure," she said.

According to Stuart Trundle, the chief executive of Venture Taranaki, because of the mountain's iconic nature, the couple's nude photo may not be so surprising.

"Guidelines on the spiritual significance of Mount Taranaki's summit, which we understand Ms. Cook sought and adhered to, do not, and cannot cover every eventuality, as is clearly the case in this instance," said Trundle. "There is a growing global trend of social media photos featuring nudity in iconic locations. Given our region's current profile as the world's No. 2 regional destination, we can expect more exposure."

New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom said tourists should be considerate of locals' feelings and traditions.

"They should ask themselves how they would feel if someone took a photo of themselves naked, on the grave of a great-grandparent," said Holdom. "Tangata whenua [the Maori people] are not wanting to be the 'fun police,' however Mr. Ngawhare was right when commenting that people should show a little respect."

Sources: Daily Mail, Stuff.co.nz / Photo credit: Phillip Capper/Flickr, Jaylene Cook/Instagram via Edmonton Sun

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