Exhibition of moko kauae by wahine Māori

updated By Mare Haimona-Riki

Māori photographer Putaanga Waitoa (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou, Kuki Airani) has opened up an art exhibition in Hastings that displays photographs of women wearing moko.  

Receiving her own moko kauae last year, Waitoa says the majority of kauae resources she could find were written from Pākehā authors, which didn't sit well with her. 

"It's important that the authenticity is retained by Māori, we need to be the one telling our stories," she says.

"Who am I to wear moko kauae" art exhibition by Putaanga Waitoa - Photo / Supplied

The gallery houses three years worth of professional photographs, each in hand-made frames made of recycled weatherboard from Kahungunu state homes by Joe Rowntree.

Waitoa hopes the gallery will serve as not only a  reliable resource and place of learning from wāhine Māori sharing their unique personal journeys.

"When it comes to Māori healing and creating space for us, it needs to be done by someone that feels that mamae that we have endured from everything that we've been through," she says 

Prominent wāhine mau moko kauae featured in gallery - Photo / Supplied

Waitoa is adamant that none of her pieces are for sale, in fact, she has turned many people away who insist that she allows them to buy from her.  

"The artworld has conditioned us that everything is for sale, so artist - they make to sell they don't create anymore - they don't create to tell a story, they make to sell. I'm not doing that!

"The portraits are not leaving my site, they are not going anywhere where I can't see them or know if they are safe and respected."

Although the exhibition will close its doors on June 6th, Waitoa will continue her podcast, "Pūkauae" as another avenue to perpetuate the mana of wāhine mau moko kauae.