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Māori tattoo expert wants more consultation over censorship of moko images on social media

By Raniera Harrison

A Māori tattoo expert is calling on Facebook and Instagram to consult more with traditional Māori practitioners to discuss what's culturally appropriate on social media.

This comes after Facebook and Instagram had images of posterior tattoos removed from the personal Facebook page of moko artist Hirini Katene.

Both platforms say the images are "not in compliance with community guidelines."

Moko artist Hirini Katene is adept in his craft, but he feels it is being misunderstood by social media outlets.

Hirini Katene says, “I just want to be comfortable in sharing my art and this being pulled down, and then have to be like, oh not this again.”

The video Facebook and Instagram removed from the social media pages at the weekend showed images of work completed by artist Hirini Katene.

Both social media platforms categorised the images of a recently completed pūhoro as "offensive" and "sexually suggestive.”

Katene says, “Sexual acts? There's nothing sexual about that pūhoro. Or him, you know, turning."

In a Facebook notification to Katene, the outlet said "these images violate their community guidelines."

However, tā moko exponent Gordon Toi believes social media outlets should consult with indigenous people like Māori who see these images as culturally appropriate.

Gordon Toi says, “Because at the moment, there is none. They can kind of do what they want to, and we have to sort of accept it.”

Te Kāea contacted the Ministry of Culture and Heritage for comment on what they believe is culturally acceptable in New Zealand.

Toi says, “I know we're not the only ones that we've had this done to. I've had it done to myself, and a lot of our friends in the tattooing community have had their images deleted for no reason.”

Katene's images of his completed work were deleted on four occasions on Facebook, urging him to take his stance.

Katene says, “Keep liking, sharing, and keep our art form alive really.”

Te Kaea is awaiting a response from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to see whether they will force these social media outlets to rethink their community guidelines.

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