'It's your birthright' - More Māori men encouraged to get facial moko despite ongoing debates within Maoridom

Policewomen, politicians, teachers, mums and nannies - Māori women are wearing moko kauae in more numbers than ever.

But the uptake for Māori men of the full-face moko is much slower and experts say challenges remain even as younger men start to take the ink.

Whakarongotai Hohepa says there's a special sort of strength some get from their moko, which is why he wears his proudly.

"I feel it, it's like my tīpuna are with me everywhere I go," he said.

Te Karere’s Whati Te Wake's another proud of his heritage, becoming the first male broadcaster in New Zealand to with a facial moko.

"I try not to make a big deal about it because it's not about me, it's about the artform itself," he said.

"I suppose it's about me pushing spaces whether that's on TV or even walking down the street."

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It's a big moment in the Mariu family, with Hilda's partner Laura also named to captain the women's Warriors team. Source: Te Karere

But men aren't getting their faces inked in the same numbers women are and one expert says that's because women never faced the same stigma or demonisation that men did.

"You could either be a noble savage or you were some kind of rebel, renegade, unsavoury character," Professor Ngahuia te Awekotuku said.

"So by the 1930s, 1940s - the very last face was seen."

Within Maoridom, there's conflicting opinions on who qualifies to wear facial moko, with hardliners believing fluency in te reo being a must.

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The festival decided to ban moko after complaints about incorrect use, but it has left some in the school community upset. Source: 1 NEWS

"I think it goes back to our old customs where you have to be someone of great stature, you have to do things for your iwi," Mr Hohepa said.

But Mr Hohepa said he got his because he wanted to – something Mr Te Wake fully agrees with.

"It's your birthright, and you are enough."

Professor Te Awekotuku says another barrier is the pain factor.

"The pongiangia - the little curl in the nostril and the very tip of the nose - that is pain beyond human definition and barely tolerable and the guys do that."

Whether it's known as mataora, moko or rangi paruhi, Professor Te Awekotuku says it is a bold statement.

"It's like being on display 24/7. How many guys have got the courage and the sense of self confidence to do that?"

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The uptake for Māori men of the full face moko is much slower. Source: 1 NEWS