Ngāpuhi performer reveals story behind his moko kauwae

By Taroi Black

A Northland performance artist is causing a stir by taking a trans-gendered approach to ground that has been traditionally sacred.  Vince Nathan is a poet, burlesque dancer and a man who wears a moko kauwae.

Nathan says, "I've worn moko kauwae since I was 16.  My great grandmother gifted it to me when I was 16."

Brought up in Whangarei, Nathan has always wanted to tell his story.

"It has served me so well, it's such a part of me now as a person, as a Māori, that I couldn't see myself without it.  They always say the moko is sitting under the skin waiting to be revealed."

Nathan wearing the moko is controversial, but he believes that it carries an important message.

“There are those ones out there who are quite tūturu and I think the main shock factor is that they see moko kauwae on a tane, and that's something that they don't see or not use to."

Vince Nathan is a poet at Butter Factory by day, and a drag queen by night.

"Everyone's lives that he seems to be involved with just uplifts and he inspires in so many different ways, and I am so proud to be one of his close friends," says Jessica White.

"Who I am as a person is fully represented by moko kauwae.  The feminine aspects come through my persona," Nathan says.

Now in his 30s, Vince has no regrets about his moko kauwae which he carries forever.