The decline of traditional tā moko (Māori tattoo) and its modern-day revival is explored in a compelling story of survival, self-determination, courage, healing and reclamation of identity.

MOKO features tā moko artists, Māori academics, and wearers of tā moko speaking directly to issues of colonisation, intellectual property rights, and the tikanga that guides and defines tā moko in Aotearoa.

Director Jessica Sanderson (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, Te Ātiawa) describes working on MOKO as one of the most challenging, humbling, and privileged experiences of her life.

“I have revered moko since I was very little. I loved looking at paintings of my tūpuna, who wore moko. Like most of us though, it came with a tinge of sadness about why I saw such a beautiful taonga so rarely on the living,” says Jessica Sanderson.

“This series is a peak into the world of moko and I hope this series inspires those who want to know more, to start within their own rohe and wānanga there – I know that’s what this experience has done for me. The pull to go home, to reconnect and learn more about our tūpuna has never been stronger.”

Producer, Lara Northcroft (Te Arawa, Tūwharetoa, Waikato) says tā moko – mataora and moko kauae – were worn with pride and honour and signified one's role in their hāpu or iwi. It could proclaim a person’s achievements in life – what they were good at, what they had done, where they were from.

Northcroft says tā moko was one of the first things to be discouraged through colonisation and missionary influence.

“The newly dominant culture saw it as ‘uncivilised’, and so it was largely lost. Its revival was a conscious decision by different groups to bring this taonga back to life,” says Lara Northcroft.

Northcroft believe the series will spark conversation and debate,

“As Māori we are not all the same, it was important to me that the series be a collection of voices and views on this kaupapa – from different rohe across the motu. We all have our own relationship to moko and we wanted to honour that difference.”  

This series MOKO premieres Monday 16 May at 7.30 PM on Whakaata Māori and Māori+.

Coming up on MOKO:

EPISODE 1 – Monday 16 May 2022 at 7.30 PM: ORIGINS & DECLINE

What are the origins of moko and why did the visibility of this taonga decline.

EPISODE 2 – Monday 23 May 2022 at 7.30 PM: MODERN REVIVAL

The modern revival of moko – the conscious decision by different groups to bring this taonga back.

EPISODE 3 – Monday 30 May 2022 at 7.30 PM: ARTISTS TODAY

The new generation of moko artists – the pathway has been made easier for them by the first wave, but challenges remain.

EPISODE 4 – Monday 6 June 2022 at 7.30 PM: KAPA HAKA & PUHORO

The special role kapa haka has played in the revival of moko. The significance of puhoro and the healing paradigm of moko is shared.

EPISODE 5 – Monday 13 June 2022 at 7.30 PM: FASHION & TAUIWI

Moko is perceived as "fashionable" to some – celebrities and tauiwi take up moko and the kupu "kirituhi" emerged. What is the right way for tauiwi to engage with moko?

EPISODE 6 – Monday 20 June 2022 at 7.30 PM: TĀWĀHI

Moko artists from Aotearoa attend 'Tatau i Mo'orea'. Gathering and sharing their art with artists from around the world, unexpected and heated debates arise.


What are the boundaries with the taonga of moko – artists and academics debate. What is the hope for the future?

EPISODE 8 – Monday 4 July 2022 at 7.30 PM: MOKO KANOHI

Moko kanohi wearers share their journey and their vision for a future.