Toihoukura tā moko convention attracts talented artists

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

For the next three days, one of the oldest Māori art schools in the country, Toihoukura in Gisborne will see tā moko artists from all over the country dedicated to their craft, ensuring the highest of standards and practices are carried out in the industry.

Former Toihoukura student Cy McLeod has been making a living as a Tā Moko artist for the last eight years and conventions like this help develop his craft.

Cy McLeod says, “It's really good for us artists to get together to keep coming up with new ideas and ways of getting our craft out there, not only here but overseas too.”

With the blessing of his mother, 17-year-old Keenan Kaiwai is able to get his first custom designed moko that has special significance to him and his family.

Research shows that one in three New Zealanders under the age of 30 are getting tattoos, so with the gain in popularity over the years, it's important to tā moko artists that high health and safety standards are carried out. 

Raniera McGrath says, “There are many people out there that don't really know the correct standards of tā moko, so establishing some sort of regulations would ensure the best outcome for the client. At the end of the day the safety of the person receiving the tā moko or tattoo is the most important thing.”

While there are currently no laws governing tattoo practise in New Zealand, the industry is governed by a code of ethics, something tā moko artists attending the convention take very seriously.

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