The stigma associated with facial tā moko continues to fade in Aotearoa and wānanga [gatherings] like the one experienced in Christchurch over the weekend are helping the traditional art form be reborn.
Twenty-one individuals had their stories imprinted on their skin in Ōtautahi. Among them was reporter for TVNZ1’s Te Karere, Hania Douglas.
Surrounded by family, emotion, and waiata, Douglas eventually emerged to gasps and tears of joy as the weight of what had just taken place became evident.
“This is the revival of an art form that was nearly lost,” Douglas said.
“I opened the door for my family and now they can do it – it’s not going to be this strange, abstract idea anymore.”
Huata Arahanga, who organised the wānanga, said he’s witnessed “an amazing resurgence of the art form” in the last 10 years and tā moko artists couldn’t agree more with some saying they’re struggling to keep up with demand.
Artist Anikaaro Harawira feels part of that boils down to the art form “normalising”.
“It’s coming out of the stage where it was so sacred and so tapu,” Harawira said.
“It’s also out of the stage where it had disappeared for a while.”
The normalisation is also helped by people like Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta who proudly displays the art.
“It's a credit to how far attitudes have changed and will continue to change to be more inclusive and more embracing.”