Moko as a vehicle for change.

What is Moko to me? Moko is the outward expression of an internal identity. This can encompass many things. For example, I have different kaupapa for each individual piece of moko that I have on my body, from the expression of my whakapapa and specific whanau members, to the speaking of Te Reo Maori, and the concept or process of de-colonisation. These are all important kaupapa to me as they represent my ongoing whakaaro, they evolve as ideas as I evolve and grow as a person.

Last year I choose to receive my Mataora, my moko kanohi. I had decided to do so two years earlier, and then spent those two years going through a range of thoughts and emotions. The proccess was both positive and negative as the majority of the conversations that I had were with myself, internally. These conversations or thoughts ranged from a simple encouragement to myself, to strong feelings that I lacked, or rather was not enough as a person to receive and wear moko kanohi. I felt at times, that I was not enough as a tangata Maori. That I did not deserve to wear moko kanohi and that I lacked something inately.

In the lead up to te wa mau moko, I also spoke with different people, some with moko kanohi, some without. Those who agreed with my whakaaro simply encouraged me, " if it is right for you, it is right for you", whilst those who did not were far more complex in their korero. I found in the latter korero, a re-occuring theme of fear toward the moko. Some of these korero deeply hurt me, causing me to turn away from the person after we had spoken. It was not until after te wa mau moko that I realised that all of the things that were said that hurt me, were things I had already thought about myself.

It was in the process of deciding to and receiving of my moko kanohi, that I began to shed these thoughts about myself. To me this is the inward process of de-colonisation. A shedding of a negative self image, created by my internal voice that tells me, in my natural state of living I am not enough. Not Maori enough. Not worth enough. The voice created by colonisation, to convince me that it is better to cast aside my taha Maori. That I do not belong here or there. To discard that outcome of colonisation, that mechanism designed to denigrate and invalidate another culture and its people, to convince them that they, their culture and their language no longer belong in their country of origin.

When my tamariki look at my moko kanohi, I wish for them to see me, in my natural state. To see the worth in me, that I see in them as tangata Maori. I will ensure that they will grow up knowing who they are as they step out in to the world. That in de-colonising my own mind, my own self-image, I am capable of teaching them to know that they are enough.

I am grateful for my moko kanohi, and the process of receiving it. It was both painful physically and spiritually, as I confronted many negative things that I held internally, and changed them into positivity. I do not think that this is the only process for those seeking moko to go through, but rather I hope that in sharing this korero, I will encourage others to consider moko, and to go through the journey that is correct for them in order to do so.

Nga mihi ki a koe, e te tohunga ta moko, ko Tu, mo te taonga nei, ko Mataora, kua ta mai koe i runga i toku kanohi. Ki toku hoa rangatira, ko Frankie, he mihi aroka maku i a koe, mo tou tautokotanga mutunga kore ki au, mo te kaupapa nei. Ko aku tamariki, tenei te mihi ki a korua, koutou ma ko oku whanaunga, oku hoa e awhina mai ana, he mihi hoki ano ki a koutou katoa.

Tena tatou katoa.

Josh Paki