New Zealand MP in Māori facial tattoo first

Kelsi Farrington

The tattoo on the chin of New Zealand MP Nanaia Mahuta is much more than a mark of pride. It is a symbol of remembrance and personal strength

New Zealand MP Nanaia Mahuta has made history as the first woman in parliament to wear a moko kauae, the traditional Māori chin tattoo.

“I want to be a part of the movement of positive affirmation for the way New Zealand grows and thinks,” Mahuta told Positive News. “I see it as a chance to inspire awareness – a form of cultural pride that will support my country in maturing and recognising its indigenous people.”

Mahuta was one of 14 prominent women to adopt the tattoo in August to express unity, pride and self-determination around the 10th anniversary of the death of the Māori queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, the longest serving Māori monarch.

I see it as a form of cultural pride that will support my country in maturing and recognising its indigenous people

Mahuta – who is from the Waikato-Maniapoto tribe – explained that she wanted to receive the moko for more personal reasons too, including having reached a 20 year-long career in parliament and to mark the passing of her father. And it was her three-year-old daughter who, having dreamt about the moko, gave Mahuta a final push toward getting the tattoo. “It’s of our culture. It’s how you identify with yourself, where you come from and where you belong.”


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Mahuta said that she has always felt strong and content in her identity. “It’s more that people see what I’ve had inside of me this whole time. I haven’t got time to muck around: I’m here to make a difference.”

She said the moko is a statement to “urge people to really take notice” and that she was proud to be “bringing to the perspective of Māori people to the front” as a member of parliament.

“What the world needs now is soft power and women can bring that energy. Like water, women can be a pleasant trickle, a rush of power or it can create a tsunami. Water is more malleable and so this is women’s power. I’m in favour of soft power and putting more important issues first, such as the environment. It’s what matters most.”

What the world needs now is soft power and women can bring that energy

Image: Nevada Halbert

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