Visitors to Te Puia and the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) will be able to take away a permanent reminder of their visit with a new tā moko studio opening today.
The studio will give visitors an insight into the traditional and contemporary art form and sits proudly alongside the Wānanga Precinct's existing disciplines – wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving and a bronze foundry. Accomplished tā moko artists Arekatera Maihi and Jacob Tautari will lead the studio.
NZMACI tumu whakairo rākau me te tā moko, Arekatera Maihi, said there had 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 achieved.
"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 said what made tā moko special was that it was 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."
Tautari said educating people about tā moko was an important part of the process.
Te Puia general manager sales and marketing Kiri Atkinson-Crean said NZMACI was mandated to protect, promote and perpetuate Māori arts, crafts and culture, and the tā moko studio added 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 practising tā moko for 11 years. Both are also graduates of NZMACI's woodcarving school.
"Together, Jacob and I have been involved with Tuku Iho, as well as trade shows around the country. We're now excited to bring these experiences back to Rotorua," Maihi said.
"Receiving a tā moko at the studio is an exclusive experience and chance to wear art with individualised meaning."