Moko in our contemporary age.

To me, moko is an expression of who we are, connecting us to our whakapapa as we live in this modern age.

I am grateful to be able to be a part of moko, to be trusted by whanau to ta moko them, and to guide them through the process of getting moko, in whatever form that it manifests in for them. 

I continue to do ta moko because it is an opportunity to participate in something bigger than oneself. I work from the foundation created by the work of our ancestors. Those who have passed on, and those who continue to practise ta moko and create a standard of excellence to aspire to. 

I believe that when we practise ta moko, we are creating in the present, but are in conversation with the past, and the future. We are not at the tail end of tradition, but rather a living, breathing and evolving part of tradition that exists in the middle of a time continium, as we live in the present. 

I believe moko is a powerful tool of self expression, of tino rangatiratanga, of de-colonisation. It is a taonga to be revered. And so when we practise ta moko, and wear it, we are bound to protect it and to nuture it, as those before us have done so.

I believe that tattoo culture as a whole (the act of putting pigment into ones skin) is going through a massive cultural shift. Part of the reason for this shift is how we display our work in social media, and how we interact with each other and each others work. I think that as a result of using these social media platforms, we are witnessing a homoginisation of cultures, including indigenous tattooing. As we share with each other, in a globalised context, we also are in danger of losing our original cultural context and voice, lost amongst the noise that is social media. Whether it be moko, tatau, japanese, traditional western tattooing or any other tattooing culture. Each have whakapapa and mana that preceeds its practioners working in the present, and will continue to, in perpetuity. To identify them as one group, operating under the value system of a homoginised global culture, endangers their individuality, and their separate value systems.

I recently was asked to be the kai taa for a whanaus mokopapa at their marae, a first for me. This experience was incredible for a number of reasons. The most profound thing for me was practising ta moko in its true cultural context. The act of ta moko sat amongst karanga, whaikorero, manaakitanga karaki and korero. Its meaning signified not only by the person wearing the moko, but also the context in which it was being created.

This is not to say that moko made outside of this context is less valued, but rather to see moko in a context that is truly Maori, in a context that does not require it to confirm to fit into another cultural paradigm and its value systems.

This experience has lead me to realise that moko relies on its community to define it. As a cultural practitioner, my practise is defined by those who ask me to participate in the act of ta moko. Those who nominate me, who trust me to fufill the role of kai taa in the greater context of our cultural identity. I am a kai taa moko in relation to nga tangata hia mau moko. We are individuals, existing in relation to and relying on each other within our communities.

Although we are creating and living in a post-colonial/de-colonisation period, I believe that the social issues that arose from having an overarching powerstructure and subsequent ideology in our ancestors lifetimes, are still prevalent today.

The dominant culture and standard of "normal" still exist in different forms, and we must be cautious of what we allow to influence us and our communities.

As our tattoo culture as a whole, is shifting and changing, social media and consumerist culture is quickly becoming the signifier of our standard of "normal". It requires us to conform or shift our identies to fit the the cultural paradigm that it is perpetually creating/re-creating in order for us to continue to consume, be it a product or an ideology. I believe that it is this that is causing the aforementioned homoginisation.

We must be cautious in deciding what we share, as we are practitioners and wearers of something that is greater than ourselves. In sharing our kaupapa without concidering the cultural paradigm of the "norm" we are engaging with, we risk unintentionally and unconsiously conforming to a different value system, sacrificing the essence of who we are in order to particpate in the new "normal".

As always, these are my thoughts and opinions, oku whakaaro. I do not share them with the intention to hurt or ostracise any persons, but rather to engage in a meaningful and thoughtful discussion with others. If you have any whakaaro of your own, I welcome you to share, be it in the comment sections or via email ( We are all participants in this kaupapa , be it as practitioners, wearers or both.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Nga mihi nui, ki a koutou katoa.

Mauri Ora.

Josh Paki