Nanaia Mahuta recently made New Zealand and tattoo history by being the first Member of Parliment (MP) with Tā Moko — traditional Māori facial tattoos. Her doing so puts forth a major cultural statement — that her culture is integral to the country's history as well as it's contemporary society. Given that she is such an influential politician and activist for indigenous rights, her new traditional markings help set a new and positive precedent in regards to the tolerant as well as respectful treatment of her people and their culture.
Mahuta was one of 14 prominent Māori women in New Zealand to get these culturally significant facial tattoos as a way of honoring the 10th anniversary of the death of Dame Te Atairangikaahu, the Māori monarch that served longer than any other. In an interview with Positive News, she said the following about getting Tā Moko:
"I see it as a form of cultural pride that will support my country in maturing and recognizing its indigenous people."
Although the act of getting these facial tattoos is hugely symbolic of her affinity with her people and their past, it was also very personal for Mahuta, who also saw being tattooed as a way of commemorating having been an MP for over twenty years as well as a form of remembrance for her recently deceased father.
Mahuta is just one of many indigenous women who are working to revive and maintain the ancient practice of tattooing their faces. More and more women are following in their footsteps of their ancestors and adopting Tā Moko as a way of expressing their identities as well as preserving their heritage. To say the least, this trend is awesome to see, and through the example of women like Mahuta, it stands only to grow and become more accepted in New Zealand as it was before colonization and should have always been.
We hope you enjoyed reading about Mahuta and her new Tā Moko. Hopefully, more Maori women will continue to get these beautiful and meaningful facial tattoos. If you want to read about more of these astounding tattooed ladies, check out this other recent article about the 21st-century resurgence in this profound cultural tradition.