National | Tā moko/Kirituhi

Wearing moko not my right – Pākehā photographer

A Pākehā photographer whose latest work aims to normalize tā moko says he wouldn’t get a facial tattoo because “it wouldn’t be my right”.

Photojournalist Michael Bradley is using an old photographic technique from the 1800s to show the resurgence of tā moko.

Although his new exhibition is focusing on the traditional Māori facial tattoo, he says he would never wear one himself.

“Whilst it's part of NZ's culture, I don’t know if I would deserve one,” he says.

Combining an 1850s photography technique with the latest in modern technology, his exhibition showcases the moko of 23 Māori participants through wet plate and digital photos and video interviews.

His exhibition is timely considering the recent controversy over a Pākeha woman receiving a moko kaue which sparked a national debate about who was worthy to wear the traditional Māori art form.

Pouroto Ngaropo, who received his moko at 22 and is part of Bradley’s exhibition, says the option to wear moko kaue should be for Māori first and foremost.

“It’s taken nearly 200 years, like the reo, to actually normalise the idea for us to retain and take back our own cultural heritage,” he says.

He hopes Bradley’s exhibition will make people accept those wearing moko.

“In my view, it will break down the fear of the moko”.

The exhibition called Puaki is at Te Kōngahu Museum in Waitangi until Sunday 2 September.