It's Transformative: Māori women talk about their moko kauae / Broadly
When New Zealand was colonized in the 1800s, the ancient Māori practice of moko kauae—or sacred female facial tattooing—began to fade away. Now the art form is having a resurgence. Here's what it means to stamp your identity on your face.
For New Zealand Māori women, the moko kauae, or traditional female chin tattoo, is considered a physical manifestation of their true identity. It is believed every Māori woman wears a moko on the inside, close to their heart; when they are ready, the tattoo artist simply brings it out to the surface.
Last month, Nanaia Mahuta became the first member of parliament in the world to wear a moko kauae. The 46-year-old made history not only because of her decision to wear her Māori identity on her face in a political arena, but as part of the resurgence in Māori women receiving the traditional ink.
"There were a number of milestones in my life, and it felt right to mark them in a way that is a positive statement about my identity," Nanaia (below) tells Broadly. "Who I am, where I come from, and the contribution I want to continue to make. When I got it done, I felt incredibly calm. I felt like it had always been there."
Nanaia's moko marked the anniversary of her father's death, and the designs incorporate the traditional carving patterns of her tribe, Ngāti Maniapoto. But she also received the moko to inspire her three-year-old daughter. "As a young Māori woman I want my daughter to know that everything is at her fingertips; she just needs to reach forward and grab it."