Major tā moko exhibition opens in Australia

By Kelvin McDonald
Credit: National Gallery of Australia.

A major Tā Moko exhibition has opened at the National Gallery of Australia, tracing the artform from its traditional beginnings through to the present day.

The Māori Markings: Tā Moko exhibition began in Canberra over the weekend and will run until 25 August. 

The exhibition, which is supported by Toi Māori Aotearoa and the NZ High Commission, displays carvings, nineteenth-century prints, paintings and contemporary photography to illustrate the Māori experience of the artform. 

Portraits in the exhibition span the past 250 years and include early images of rangatira and kuia in addition to contemporary examples of tā moko.


Māori Markings: Tā Moko Exhibition from Saturday 23rd March onwards at the National Gallery @nationalgalleryaus in Canberra. Entrance is free, see you there 👊🏾 ✖️✖️ Tā moko is the unique Māori art of marking the skin with connecting patterns that tell of prestige, authority and identity. To receive and to wear moko is a great cultural privilege ✖️✖️ ‘Māori Markings: Tā Moko’ will explore this tradition, from its origin in the legend of Mataora and Niwareka and the earliest European records of the practice to its contemporary resurgence from the 1990s. Important early Māori sculpture, 19th century prints, painting and photography and contemporary photography will trace the story of this unique cultural art form ✖️✖️ The portraits in the exhibition span the past 250 years and include images of men and women influential in Māori history. Visitors will have the chance to discover some of the first illustrations of Māori people, made during Captain Cook’s voyages. Pictures of chiefs who travelled the world in the early 19th century, such as Hongi Hika, will also be among the treasures on display, as will portraits of signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi and of those who openly defied the colonial government during New Zealand’s land wars during the mid 19th century ✖️✖️ Photo credit to the Serena Stevenson who took this photo during me receiving my mataora for her ‘Face Value’ exhibition.

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As this exhibition begins, another in Auckland, focused on wāhine with moko, is set to close tomorrow.

The Te Kuia Moko – Women with Moko exhibition which opened earlier this month at the Depot Artspace in Devonport features 34 prints of kuia with traditional moko kauae taken from original paintings by artist Harry Sangl painted in the early 1970s.