Artist Arohanoa Mathews is on a mission.

"I have painted portraits of women without eyes wearing a moko kauae. For me, this symbol really is about focusing on empowering women and just for women to be able to speak up."

Encouraging wahine to find their voice is the inspiration behind much of her artwork, including these pieces.

They'll be on display during He Iwi Kotahi "Sea and Village" festival at The Incubator on Waitangi Day. The festival featuring works from a number of Māori artists.

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"For me, the moko kauae - there's a lot of meaning and inspiration. That authenticity, it comes from within. It is given to you, not taken from you. It's a spiritual authority. That's what my artwork is about- having that voice."

Born in Whakatāne, Aroha is a descendant from Ngāi Te Rangi, Tūhoe and Te Arawa iwi.
She's also an art teacher- returning home to Mount Maunganui after eight years in Perth.

"What brings me back home is really about me connecting with my whakapapa, with Māori people. That sense of belonging."

Aroha recently finished a mural in Whakatāne, the piece remembers the past and present Women of Matatā.

But her inspiration isn't always women. Husband Jeremy and sons Rawiri and Kaearangi are an important part of her process too.

"Balance between women and men is very important. I'm very pro mana tāne and I've been surrounded by my mana tāne such as my parents, husband and children. All my family."

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