Exhibitions - Whakakitenga
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Kuia mau moko: photographs by marti friedlander

27 February - 10 April 2016
Waitara Library and Service Centre

Kuia Mau Moko is an exhibition of 29 black-and-white photographs of Māori kuia who bore the indelible legacy of moko kauae - the tradition of incising and imbedding pigment into the skin on the chin of Māori women.

Photographed by Marti Friedlander in the late 1960s and early 1970s at a time when it was believed the sun was setting on this ancient tradition of the Māori people, these kuia featured in the extraordinary book authored by the late Michael King in 1972,  Moko – Māori Tattooing in the 20th century.

King and Friedlander’s journey uncovered a generation of kuia who were the last in an unbroken tradition to receive moko kauae in the 1920s. Captivating and revealing, the book proved so popular it was republished in 1992.  It continues to inspire practitioners and researchers of ta moko (the application of moko), and the revival of the moko kauae tradition over the last 20 years.

The kuia were photographed in their homes, their gardens or on their marae. Each has a story of resilience, loss and of sorrow for a way of life that was fast slipping away. Few may have predicted that within two decades moko kauae would begin a quiet revival that would eventually see hundreds of Māori women proudly bearing the moko of their ancestors and reconnecting the past with the future. 

Gifted to Te Papa in 2009 from the Gerrard and Marti Friedlander Charitable Trust, this is the only surviving full set of the original photographs from this collaboration.  A specific condition of the gift is that the ‘Moko’ collection be shared with the nation as was the intention when the kuia were photographed and interviewed.

Developed and toured by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa