Rotorua Daily Post reporter Alice Guy has a firsthand experience in the new tā moko studio at Te Puia.

COMMENT:

As an independent 24-year-old, no one flutters an eyelid when I tell them I am getting a tattoo, but when I say the words tā moko, people flinch.

I think they panicked that I would be getting it on my face.

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My personal fears were the pain and that when I arrived I wouldn't know what the design would look like but mostly my fear was that I was not Māori.

Lately there has been a lot of stigma around Pākehā getting tā moko, particularly moko kauae.

But I grew up in Rotorua, surrounded by Māori culture, I admire the art forms, I admire te reo and for me, Māori culture is New Zealand culture.

Earlier this month Te Puia opened the doors on its new tā moko studio led by accomplished tā moko artists Arekatera Maihi and Jacob Tautari.

Arriving at the studio I was nervous.

The night before I had filled out my forms, talking about my family, my background, the places that are important to me and the things that make me who I am.

But the most beautiful part about the tā moko experience was watching it come to life on my skin.

Jacob sketched a rough design on my forearm first, other than saying where I wanted it, the design all came from him.

He was a perfectionist, going over the lines time and time again and I placed my trust in him from a messy red sketch.

As he tattooed in the outline the permanence of it suddenly became real, but it was as he sketched in the details I began to fall in love with it.

All together it took two and a half hours. Two and a half hours of complete trust in what he was creating.

Reporter Alice Guy gets a tattoo from artist Jacob Tautari at Te Puia's new tā moko stuido. Photo/Ben Fraser
Reporter Alice Guy gets a tattoo from artist Jacob Tautari at Te Puia's new tā moko stuido. Photo/Ben Fraser

At the end he washed away the smudged ink and guided me through what it meant.

Originally I thought I would share it in this story, but he also explained to me how personal it is.

Tā moko is for the individual, it is their story, their past, their future and it is who they are. Mine is no different.

It was an experience I would recommend to anyone, and one I will take with me wherever I go next, one I will be proud to wear on my skin for the rest of my life.