Indigenous | Books

Wahine shares journey to reclaiming her taha Māori in new book

The journey of one woman to explore her whakapapa, reo and reclaim her Māori identity culminating in her decision to take on Mokorua: ngā kōrero mō tōku moko kauae, is being released today.

The book by singer, taonga puoro musician and writer Ariana Tikao (Kāi Tahu), includes a moving photo essay by photographer Matt Calman, and te reo māori text by husband Ross Calman, both of whom are of Ngāti Toa, Kāi Tahu and Ngāti Raukawa-ki-te-tonga descent.

Tikao grew up in the 1970s and 1980s in Christchurch surrounded by te ao Pākehā. Her book shows her journey towards getting her moko kauae from artist Christine Harvey. The book shares the impactful and deep moment she experienced with her whānau when receiving her moko kauae, as she writes: "Our whānau had reached another milestone in the decolonisation process – or, rather, in our journey of re-indigenising ourselves, becoming who we always were."

Tikao reveals parts of her journey back to te ao Māori.

“There’s whakaaro around whether there’s an aspect of someone being deserving of this taonga,” she says. “But Christine was totally supportive all the way along and encouraging."

She credits one inspiration for getting it was her daughter, Matahana, who made the decision to also get her first moko on her hand and wrist. It meant mother and daughter would get their first moko at the same time.

A day before it happened, Tikao asked photographer Matt if he would want to be part of the ceremony.

“[The photos] really capture the essence and the aroha of the room. I think they can also help educate people about the nature of moko, and that it’s not just something that you take on lightly and there’s a ceremony and depth to the practice behind the scenes that often people don’t get to witness.”