Tā moko exhibition to debut at Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi

Puaki – to come forth, show itself, open out, emerge, reveal, to give testimony. In Māori culture, it is believed everyone has a tā moko under the skin, just waiting to be revealed. The problem is, when photographs of tā moko were originally taken in the 1850s, the tattoos barely showed up at all. The wet-plate photographic method used by European settlers served to erase this cultural marker – and as the years went by, this proved true in real life, too. The ancient art of tā moko was increasingly suppressed as Māori were assimilated into the colonial world.

In his new project, photojournalist Michael Bradley has re-claimed the near-obsolete wet-plate photographic technique as an original and striking way of showing the resurgence of the art form of tā moko.

Combining the 1850s technique with the latest in modern technology, Puaki showcases the tā moko of 23 Māori participants through wet plate and digital photos and video interviews. The exhibition is set to open at Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi on Saturday 26 May.

Collections and Public Programmes Coordinator Caitlin Timmer-Arends is excited that Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi will be the debut venue for Puaki.

“The exhibition has so many themes that correspond to Waitangi and Aotearoa. Featuring well known New Zealanders, the exhibition gives the opportunity for both our local and international visitors to experience tā moko and its re-emerging place in our society.”

Michael Bradley says that he can’t think of a better place to give the exhibition its first showing than Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi.

“Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi is a very important place, and it’s an honour to bring these images and stories to the museum, documenting the place of tā moko today.”

Entry to Puaki is free for Friends of Waitangi and Day Pass holders and will be open to the public until 2 September 2018.