"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."
It's been an interesting thing. People look at you differently.
Jude (below) first broached the subject with her late husband. "He said, 'I don't want you to have it done.' I said 'Well, it's not your business, and you're not part of the decision-making process at all, and you need to understand that." Her cousin, renowned tā moko artist Gordon Toi, would tease Jude, telling her: "I've got a seat for you on my table."When Jude's older brother died of kidney failure, her decision was made. "We were very, very close. Around that time, Gordon just sort of reappeared in my life, and I said, 'Well, I'm ready to get on your table.' "
I'd been thinking about it for the past 20 years.
"I was speaking to a Pākehā [white New Zealander] friend of mine the other day who is in her seventies," Jude adds. "She was telling me she likes going into the city less and less because when she stands at a counter she gets ignored. She said: 'I'm sure it's because of my age.' Now that I have this moko, that doesn't happen to me. I'm not invisible."
Now that I have this moko, I'm not invisible.
Forty-eight year old Benita Tahuri (below) spent more than half her life thinking about getting her moko, a time that was about average for the women Broadly spoke to. "I always knew inside I wanted one, and after going through a lot of life changes and challenges and much contemplation, I knew it was the right thing for me to do," she says.
"I wanted [the moko] to be part of what was normal for them," their mother explains. "For me it was more of a process, but for them it was just what they did. And that's when it's special. You know, you can't just put it away, like if you have a tattoo you wear a shirt and it's covered. It's there for life. It's a commitment to yourself and your identity."It's saying 'I stand in who I am, and this is who I am.' "
"I wanted her to use [the uhi] because it connects us to our ancestors and their experiences," says Drina, a Māori language teacher. "I thought 'Okay, it's probably going to get worse than this,' but I lay there for six hours and there was no pain at all."Drina was part of the Kōhanga Reo political movement, which pushed to revive Māori language in the early 80s. "I wanted to be part of the collective group of women who are wearing moko kauae to revitalise this tikanga [custom], so we could normalise it in our society," she says. Drina's moko symbolises the three values she believes are essential to a meaningful life: The first is tika, or honesty and integrity; the second is pono, or belief in a higher spiritual order; and the third is aroha, meaning love."I wanted to [impart] those values to my children and grandchildren," she says. "When they look at my moko kauae there's a message, and that's around living a purposeful life."