Māori lawyer makes history with mataora

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Tūmanako Silveira of Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Raukawa and Pare Hauraki, is the first Māori man with a Mataora, that Te Ao Mārama is aware of, to be admitted to the bar as a lawyer.

“I'm thrilled, I'm ecstatic, it's taken a long time to attain this achievement, but today is about celebrating those who helped and supported me to reach this milestone, my teachers, my family and my friends. This day is to honour them. If it weren't for them, I would not be here today.”

Tūmanako Silveira has a strong relationship with Tāmoko artist Cy McLeod. After receiving his pūhoro, Silveira decided the time was right to embrace his mataora and represent the symbols of his ancestors.

“The role of the lawyer is to represent those who are going before the courts, and I want the court to hear Te Reo sounding throughout its walls, and for the court to hear the divine authority, the essential force and sacredness of those who are before it.”

Carrying the taonga together

There are many Māori women who have paved the way in law with moko kauae, such as Deputy Chief Judge Caren Fox, and now Māori men have a role model in Tūmanako Silveira.

 “Those women who have been there maintain that tradition, and so it's them who are carrying this taonga, I'm also supporting it, it's all of us who hold this taonga together.”

Silveira is no stranger to Te Ao Māori, as a graduate of kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori education he is fluent in Te Reo and has a firm grasp of tikanga. 

A cultural ambassador, Silveira is a performer for the world-class Te Mātārae i Ōrehu kapa haka.

He's not bothered by the opinions of those who do not approve of mataora.

Legal passion

“To condemn mataora is to condemn Māori, so we must make mataora and moko kauae visible, these prized and treasured heirlooms from time immemorial, bring them forward to today to be made visible in all contexts, not only restricted to pictures on the wall or on the kapa haka stage but everywhere in this land.”

He's not one to shy away from politics, either. Tūmanako Silveira is No 14 on the Māori Party list. The University of Waikato graduate is interested in legal aspects relating to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, to land and criminal law.

“I pursued law for the livelihood of my people and my family, to uplift my people within this line of work, and I'm passionate about it. Law impacts upon all of us in this country, so it's only right that our people understand how it behaves and all of its ways.”

Silveira will continue to pursue his legal career as a member of the legal team at Annette Sykes & Co in Rotorua.