The Moko: Facing up to Your Culture (Newshub Article)

After reading this short article and video put out by Newshub I am reminded of how important the work of revival by the Maori of Aotearoa (New Zealand) has been in my own life and work in the revival of Nlaka’pamux tattooing. The work of revival of Moko by the Maori was key as I begin to envision a time when our people embodied our culture in the same way the Maori have and do.

In the beginning for me it was in reading academic journal articles and watching documentary films that I encountered how Moko worked, and changed those who received it. Two years ago I visited Aotearoa for the first time and just by walking down the street I was inspired and it was then that I knew that I had to work even harder here back home. So that when we walk down any major street in any major city in Canada that we see Indigenous peoples wearing their traditional markings around every corner just like it is happening in Aotearoa.

At the end of this article I find one of the many sentiments and saying that has inspired me to begin and continue this work as Rangi McLean shares, “The tā moko is not a tattoo, to us, in terms of being Māori it is a taonga, a treasure.”

This idea is one of the inspirations for my Ethnographic stencil works that take representations of Indigenous tattooing from ethnographic booklets and transfer them to wood panel using aerosolized paint and stencils. In this artworks I paint the tattoos using Gold, silver and copper paint. Here are examples from this series.


If you would like to see more of these check them out on my artists website here:

In this article it is exciting to see Nanaia Mahuta the first sitting MP to wear a women facial Moko, she says,”Receiving a Moko kauae is one way to affirm and assert all the positive things about being Maori in todays world.”

I have had the opportunity to visit with Gordon Toi on my two visits to Aotearoa and each time he shares a pearl of wisdom with me and I really enjoyed the comments he made in the short video shared in the article by Newhub when he comments that:

“When it comes to facial moko, there are restrictions in terms of who has it in terms of non-Māori. I would never ever tattoo a non-Māori’s face. I think those are something that is reserved for Māori,” he says.

“We share enough of our culture with the rest of the world; some things we need to maintain for ourselves.”

Go check it out by clicking on this link.

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