Tā moko: Marked Histories and Identities
The primary objective of this work is to examine the way in which ideas about cultural identity are reflected in the current practice of tā moko. The research question asks, does tā moko carry cultural identity for contemporary wearers? What emerges in this study is the way in which contemporary notions of Māori identity – as manifested in tā moko – draw on traditional forms of the art and are imbued with pre-European Māori cultural concepts. However, the modern practice of tā moko also involves an extent of individual agency that is far greater than existed in any previous period. The conclusion reached here is that while the forms, symbolism, and historical resonance of contemporary tā moko are all the choice of the individual receiving the moko (an abrupt departure from traditional practices of tā moko), they are nonetheless an expression of traditional notions of Māori identity. The study uses triangulation of identity theories and qualitative methods that complement an overarching Kaupapa Māori approach. There are two main components as the exegesis is supported by a website. The third, a photographic book to showcase the art of tā moko. The captions linked to the photographs relate specifically to the research question. The website is designed as an online Māori development paper informed by this study. The photographic book relates directly to the research question and provides a voice for contemporary wearers to articulate in their own words the meanings and symbolism associated with their tā moko. It brings into focus in a creative way, the intent of the study which emphasises current practice, to explore symbolic messages that express history and identity.