New tā moko studio opens at Te Puia in Rotorua

Visitors to New Zealand's famed Māori Arts & Crafts Institute at Te Puia in Rotorua can now take away a permanent reminder of their visit at the new tā moko studio.

Visitors to Te Puia | New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI), in Rotorua, will be able to take away a permanent reminder of their visit at the new tā moko (Māori tattoo art) studio.

The studio will give visitors an insight into the traditional and contemporary art form and sits proudly alongside the Wānanga (school) precinct’s existing disciplines – wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving and a bronze foundry. Leading tā moko artists, Arekatera Maihi and Jacob Tautari, will lead the studio.

Arekatera Maihi - tumu whakairo rākau me te tā moko at NZMACI - says there has been the desire to create a tā moko experience for some time, but it needed to be done with the right level of integrity and in a purpose designed space, something the new studio achieves.

“New Zealand has been experiencing a resurgence in tā moko for some time now, with increased demand from Māori and non-Māori. There has also been additional international demand for the art form.

“Tā moko has been a popular element of NZMACI’s Tuku Iho | Living Legacy exhibition - an international cultural engagement and events programme - offshore, and it is now a privilege to be able to offer tā moko at home on site here at Te Puia.”

Manuhiri (visitors), whether receiving a tā moko or not, will be able to gain an insight into the art form through a viewing window, which can be closed for privacy if needed.

Tā moko artist, Jacob Tautari says what makes tā moko special is that it’s not simply an image or design out of a book, but a unique piece reflective of an individual’s story.

“The design of each moko is selected through a kōrero (conversation) with the artist, with each symbol representing an aspect of that person’s story.

“You’re not going to know what you are going to get until it is finished. Even the artist doesn’t know.

“Tā moko requires trust and reciprocity. The client needs to entrust the artist with their story. It is upon the artist to honour and interpret that story appropriately.”

Mr Tautari says educating people about tā moko is an important part of the process.

Te Puia general manager sales and marketing, Kiri Atkinson-Crean says NZMACI is mandated to protect, promote and perpetuate Māori arts, crafts and culture, and the tā moko studio adds another dimension to the richness on offer at Te Puia.

“Carrying out tā moko on site is another medium through which we can share Māori culture, values and traditions in today’s world and an opportunity for manuhiri, locals and visitors alike, to gain a more in-depth understanding of Māori culture and the important role it plays in New Zealand.”

Both artists have been practicing tā moko for 11 years. Both are also graduates of NZMACI’s wood carving school.

Artist profiles

Arekatera Maihi
An accomplished tā moko artist, carver and musician, Arekatera “Katz” Maihi is tumu whakairo rākau me te tā moko at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI), at Te Puia in Rotorua.

A descendant of Ngāti Whātua o Orakei, Te Waiohua and Ngā Puhi, Katz graduated from Te Wānanga Whakairo in 2006 and returned to NZMACI in 2014.

Katz’s particular strength lies in his ability to integrate traditional Māori concepts into modern applications. His comprehensive knowledge and kōrero enable him to realise creative design solutions that are deeply connected to tribal traditions.

Jacob Tautari
Accomplished tā moko artist, Jacob Tautari, is a descendant of Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe, Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāi Te Rangi.

Jacob began his art journey in nearby Tokoroa where he studied tā moko for four years. Now a graduate of NZMACI, Jacob has learnt the art of whakairo (wood carving) and has found a noticeable link between the two.

“The human body creates a canvas that challenges you with curves and shapes, but ultimately it’s hard to make a mistake. With carving, everything can change on you. The native wood we use still presents with curves and shapes to work around, but it’s the characteristics of wood that challenges with varying grains and knots.”