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Racial attack against Māori artist exposes racism

An alleged racial attack against a Māori artist with a moko kauae has exposed the harsh reality that racism exists in Aotearoa.

Ngahina Hohaia says she visited Ōwairaka, Mt Albert in Auckland to go for a walk but was physically assaulted and verbally abused by a Pākeha woman.

“I told her to hold on to her dog as she let it walk in front of my moving car. She responded with “shut up you black b****, you disgraceful idiots who go around with those moko on your face," Hohaia said in a Facebook post.

“As I took my phone out of my pocket she stepped toward me and hit me. She then sped off in her car.”

Police are investigating the alleged attack. Hohaia’s media spokesperson, Tina Ngata, says the incident has generated conversation about racism in New Zealand.

“New Zealand tends to labour under a myth that we are racially harmonious and so, when we come across instances like this, it tends to generate a lot of indignity and a lot of people asking questions around it.”

Ngata says Hohaia was left shaken after the incident.

“This is a really specific kind of abuse that wasn’t just against Ngahina as a woman, Ngata says." It was against Ngahina as a Māori and it was against her tīpuna, her ancestors because, when we wear our moko, we wear our ancestors.

“She’s a resilient person. She’s a strong wahine Māori and I know that she’ll continue to be resilient.”

Ngata says it would be relatively easy to live in Aotearoa and “fool yourself that this kind of thing doesn’t happen.

“It would more than likely be that you are lighter-skinned, don’t wear moko, are not Māori, or don’t present yourself as Māori. Once you start wearing moko, or if you are dark-skinned, or if you do speak the reo often in day-to-day life, present yourself as Māori, then you do come across this kind of racism more often.”

The woman who abused Hohaia was there with the Honour the Maunga protest group, which has been fighting to stop the felling of exotic trees to protect birdlife.

“It doesn’t surprise me that that person came out of that colonial occupation as well because that is a prime example of a movement of racism that is cloaked in white environmentalism. So that’s where you’ll find that type of racism.”

Ngata says it’s time for the government to start paying more attention to the specific colonial racism in Aotearoa.