Artist's plea for stolen traditional Tā Moko tools to be returned

By Tamati Tiananga

A reward is on offer to anyone with information of stolen Tā Moko gear from Studio Uhi Tapu in Henderson, West Auckland.

“It's heartbreak," studio owner Mokonui-a-rangi Smith says. "On Saturday we were working on a client’s raperape (buttocks). We returned Sunday morning to do the mahi and there was this feeling something was wrong.  I walked into the whare and, to my horror, my tools had been taken.”  

Smith, whose studio is based at Corban Estate Centre, Henderson, is asking anyone with information to come forward, "with no questions asked."

"These are all hand made from rakau to whēua and toroā and big tusks. These taonga were borne out of my hands and made specifically for the mahi that we do.”   

Please return tools 

More than 24 separate traditional hand-tapping tools are among items stolen over the weekend.  Among the tools stolen were taonga that hold great sentimental value because they were given to him by mentor Croc Coulter. 

"You can't replace taonga that are made by hand, made with your wairua, which are taonga tuku iho, especially those from my kaiako, who has passed on now - that can never be replaced," Smith says.

Croc, who died in January, was an Englishman artist living with cystic fibrosis in Rarotonga who mastered the traditional Polynesian art of Tā Tatau.

"Machines, you can go and buy. If I was a builder or a carpenter, you can go and get insurance, you go to Bunnings and buy your tools."

Smith is calling for anyone in the public with information to come forward, with no questions asked. 

"My tools, I can replace. I've still got my hands, I can make those, but that's why these are so valuable."