Mokonuiarangi Smith works by hand with the traditional Maori and Polynesian hand tools known as Uhi. The work made with the tools draws on traditional and contemporary aesthetics, ancestral values and modern hygiene.
My name is Mokonui-a-rangi Smith, or Moko for short, indeed meaning tattoo in Maori. I am of Maori descent, hailing from Te Arawa, Tainui, Takitimu and Horouta waka, along with my European heritage. Training under my two teachers Croc Coulter and Inia Taylor, along with many who have guided me along the way, I work to keep furthering the art form to flourish and to be handed down to future generations.
About Polynesian and Maori Tattoo
Tattooing is an ancient practice that my Polynesian ancestors have mastered over the centuries to acknowledge our human need to beautify, sanctify and enshrine elements of our natural world, our culture and our personal or collective experiences. Our tattoos are based on a body of patterns that are shared and given local meaning particular to each island or tribal group. Like all art forms, over time styles have changed depending on local taste and explorations of design and technique. Throughout central Polynesia the tattoo designs are often linear in their construct as a posed to the classical curvilinear design language of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Though little is recorded of ancient New Zealand Maori linear tattooing, large tattooing combs used to make linear patterning and large black areas from early settlement are still in existence in several museum collections throughout New Zealand. My personal practice with the traditional hand tools looks to explore the revival of both classical Maori Tā Moko and the linear forms of our ancestral tattooing heritage of Tā Tatau.
Designs are created based on a discussion with the client as to their motives and interests with regards to their tattoo. Appropriate patterns are selected and the work begins to make the piece or a time is organised for the tattoo to be made. Larger works require several consultations to thoroughly go through the design process.
Modern Hygiene includes a three step process of scrubbing with an ultra sonic cleaner, soaking in Perasafe, a surgical sterilising chemical and then the final soaking in Isopropyl alcohol directly before use.
Where We Are
The Uhi Tapu studio is positioned next to the Moko Ink studio, owned by Inia Taylor, located on his idyllic little farm, 40 minutes north-west of Auckland.
Inia Taylor's Links - New Zealand
Croc Coulter's Links - Rarotonga