Monday, November 5, 2018


My sister turned 38 yesterday. This was her idea despite it being on my To Do list for 2018. If you read New Zealand history, you’ll meet Barnett Burns, a trader from England, who became the first white man to get a full facial Maori tattoo, the ta moko. The story is that to avoid being eaten he had to agree to be fully tattooed on his face, chest, thighs and arms as a sign of loyalty to the tribe wanting to make a meal out of him.

My grandfather always said, “God before Maoridom”. This is why we never had much to do with our Marae. This is why none of us are fluent in te reo (the Maori language). I don’t doubt what my grandfather has taught us, but I’ve grown to appreciate Maori culture since working at a Maori school this year and realised that our culture deserves to be revived in my family. It’s absolutely possible to be a God loving Maori.

So there are two reason for my ta moko. One to identify and the other to show my loyalty to the people I love in the same way Barnett Burns, my 4th great grandfather did.
Ta moko.

The outside design/shape is “all” .. “Atua” .. essentially, God.
The one who holds us together.

Larry is represented in the double koru facing down towards the earth when in resting position and upward to the heavens when roused. Follow his koru up towards my elbow and you’ll find the lock that binds us. The koru branching right is myself.

I had a long hard think about how many koru I’d have in my ta moko and I don’t think anyone would disagree when they see three koru where there should probably only be one. My relationship with my niece Tyler goes beyond Aunty/niece. This is common knowledge so it shouldn’t be surprising to see that I’ve placed her and our Stiddy boy in my piece with Hubs between Larry and I.

The color is Hubba’s favorite color and my link to the South West.
Turquoise, which doubles as the color of the paua shell.

The original plan was for me and my sister to get matching sister tattoos. All day yesterday we were still undecided about what we would get. Our tattooist came up with something similar with the same colors.

Hers on her shoulder with her four kids and husband.

We also got what you call strips.  Sisters on her spine and mine on my right arm. 
These represent my siblings as birds and parents, the stars.

Not gonna lie ... it hurt like a son of a bitch.
Gonna have to wear long sleeve shirts until God calls my grandmother home .. like how I walked backwards for six years when around Aunty Hop so she didn’t see the tattoo on my ankle.

Kudos and shout out to Wairingaringa Toi of TingiTatt Native for the awesome work.

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