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Celebration Of Tä Moko At Te Papa

Celebration Of Tä Moko (Mäori Skin Marking) At Te Papa

An event celebrating the Mäori art of tä moko (skin marking) begins at Te Papa this Saturday.

Tä Moko - A history on skin gives visitors a unique opportunity to watch six prominent tä moko artists at work. Some twenty people will receive moko over the course of the event. Tä moko is the customary practice of incising skin and staining the incisions with ink. Each moko is researched and designed specifically for the recipient. Each symbol has a meaning, often linking to the tribal background of the recipient. The event is a joint venture between Te Papa and Toi Mäori Aotearoa and features artists from Te Uhi a Mataroa, a national artists' collective formed in 2000 to preserve, enhance, and develop tä moko as a living art form.

Artists taking part in the festival include Derek Lardelli, Julie Kipa, Mark Kopua, Rangi Kipa, Richard Francis and Riki Manuel. Floortalks with the artists explaining their work will take place throughout the event.

Tä Moko - A history on skin is part of the New Zealand International Arts Festival. It takes place on Te Papa's Marae from 10am - 4pm, Saturday 6 - Sunday 14 March. Entry is free.


The origins of tä moko

The origins of tä moko lie in the ancient story of Niwareka and her husband Mataora. They lived at a time when the art of chiselling the skin was not known and designs were painted on the body. One day, Mataora mistreated Niwareka who fled to her father's people in Rarohenga, the underworld. Mataora pursued his wife, wanting to persuade her to return. But when he reached Rarohenga, the designs painted on his face were smeared with sweat from his exertions. Seeing his appearance, his wife's people laughed at him - their faces were marked with permanent incisions. Ashamed, Mataora begged his wife's forgiveness and asked his father-in-law to teach him the art of tä moko. Niwareka eventually forgave her husband and returned with him to the world above, taking with her the art of taniko, a delicate and intricate form of weaving. Mataora brought with him the knowledge of moko. In that way, knowledge of these arts entered the world.

The first Europeans to document the art of moko were artists who travelled with Captain Cook in 1769. Later European visitors and settlers, such as Christian missionaries, regarded tattooing as savage and vulgar and encouraged Mäori to abandon the practice. By the early twentieth century, the art of tä moko had almost disappeared. But towards the end of the century, there was a revitalisation of its practice that continues to this day. More Mäori are choosing to have moko carved on their bodies, and pride in this art form is growing

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