5 Nov 2022

Ariana Tikao and her journey to moko kauae

From Māpuna, 12:45 pm on 5 November 2022

"Part of the reason that I received my moko was not only my identity but also to support other wahine Māori so that we swamp the place with our moko kauae and then individuals won't be so easy to target" -  Ariana Tikao


When Māori artist Ngahina Hohaia experienced a racist attack in 2020, musician and writer Ariana Tikao (Ngai Tahu) expressed her support by writing a haka and leaving it on Hohaia's voicemail.

Although moko kauae (women's face tattoo) is having a resurgence throughout Aotearoa, wahine Māori still need to stand strong and support each other against negativity, she tells Julian Wilcox.

Tikao shares photos from her own moko kauae ceremony in the new book Mokorua: My story of moko kauae.

Tikao first got the idea of producing a book when she saw the beautiful photos Matt Calman took of the ceremony, which seemed to "tell a korero in themselves".

"[They capture] that feeling in the room [during a moko kauae ceremony] and what goes on behind the scenes in terms of the depth of the ceremony and the practice as a whole, really.

"Although it's my story and a very personal story, I think it also reflects what is happening around the motu, probably around the world, for other wahine Māori as well."

She wanted to celebrate the practice of moko kauae by telling her own story of entering more deeply into te ao Māori.

"I've been on this journey for a very long time now, in terms of exploration and strengthening of my tuakiri, my identity, and receiving my moko kauae is another step along in that process."

Tikao - who has a Pakeha mother and Māori father - hopes the book might encourage other wahine Māori to get a traditional face tattoo.

"I feel moko kauae is really becoming a big part of who we are again, as it was in our tipuna's time."