Scribble-face making a comeback?

Most cultures advance as we learn more. After all Scots no longer paint their faces with woad, Vikings ceased raiding and the Danes eventually went home from England.

Here in NZ Maori continue to hanker for and wish for a return to the old ways…you know when the average life expectancy was around 30 and people scribbled on their faces.

For generations it seemed to have vanished, but journalist Mihingarangi Forbes believes the ta moko and moko kauae (female chin tattoos) are making a comeback.

More and more she spots the tattoo upon the faces and chins of younger people.  

“It is such a beautiful thing to do; to recognise and affiliate with the places and people you came from,” she says.

Just as the moko returns to mainstream Aotearoa, Forbes is coming back to our screens. While continuing her work as Radio New Zealand’s Maori affairs correspondent, from next week she will also host The Hui, a current affairs show screening Sunday nights on TV3.

She doesn’t see a conflict – her RNZ job is reporting, whereas on The Hui she will present and interview. “The satisfaction of completing an interview, of finding new ground, getting somewhere with it, is overwhelming. As much as I love reporting – and I’ve loved getting back into daily news – I wanted that challenge of doing [live interviews] again.”

As for her own (temporary) moko? “The design is taken from another moko on my body – it’s a replica of something on my back. I’m totally about not ripping off intellectual property from other people. It’s a design that was given to me.”

“I rang my Nan and she said ‘Moko? You just do what you want to do. Ka pai. Send me a picture.”

How quaint…if people want to scribble on their faces then they can’t go complaining about the lack of job prospects…though they will be the same sort of people who cry racist at the drop of a hat so I expect they will run off to the Human Wrongs Commission for compensation.




THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • Carl

    I thought Willie Jackson was telling us that there was no Maori in MSM in NZ.

    • Uncle Bully

      Then that proves what I’ve always thought: you can’t believe a word Willie Jackson says.

      • waldopepper

        is anyone listening anyway ?

        • Peter

          Yeah really, is he still around?

        • AF


  • Nechtan

    I was under the impression (and those that do know can put me right) that historically the moko was reserved for those of high rank, partly due to the long time it took to do and the tapu around the process. Modern day tattooing procedures have enabled any and all to achieve it. If anyone can get one without regard to the history and mana around it doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

    • Nige.


      “……those who went without them were seen as persons of lower social status”

      • XCIA

        This face moko business may be cultural, but for the life of me I can’t see the beauty in it. On the other hand, this painting that was used for a coca cola ad c1942 shows some proper tattoo’s.

    • Wolfman Jack

      Well yes and no. When a demand for tattooed shrunken heads happened it appears slaves were tattooed, processed and eventually sold as toi moko.

    • manuka416

      Not really. The purpose of ta moko has changed with New Zealand culture. In the mono-cultural pre-European New Zealand ta moko denoted status, mana, etc. In our multi-cultural society today it’s mostly worn to identify with Maori heritage. From my own observation, ta moko is more popular with Maori living offshore, e.g. mozzies over the ditch. Seems the further away you are, the more you’re inclined to ink a link.

  • Warren

    And the shades, all part of the culture. Who actually is she.

  • metalnwood

    Stuff must really like Forbes. A quote in the article about Metirias night out the other days said.

    ‘Once she made it inside, Turei snapped a number of shots with the celebs in attendance, including RNZ journalist Mihingarangi Forbes and the director himself.’

    The reports dont just report on the celebs, they are the celebs apparently.

    Anyhow, absolutely, they can get stuff on their face if they want and depending on their background, role in society etc it might fit them. For the people who get it as a fashion statement, on a whim, other reason, and then find they can’t take the possible social pressures that come with it.. Well thats the choice you make when you tattoo anything on your face.

  • papagaya

    To tattoo one’s face is to essentially repudiate ever being gainfully employed. But that’s what you get when you have one of the world’s most generous social welfare systems.

    • NeverMindTheBoll

      UBI will take care of that!

  • Keanne Lawrence

    She is going to host what on TV3? No wonder they struggle to get viewers. They have their own TV channel paid for by the taxpayer in the forlorn hope we wont be inflicted with this garbage on a regular TV channel.

  • Scratchings

    I have wondered lately if the Maori women’s moko was originally intended to look, at a quick distant glance, like blood dripping down the chin, and thus make the wearer look fearsome and not to be trifled with, as she would eat your flesh given half a chance. I find it quite off-putting myself, definitely not a thing that adds attraction and so I have speculated as to its original purpose. But does anyone know more about that side of things?