In 2012 during my travels through New Zealand, I encountered a Maori lady wearing a Moko Kauae (facial tattoo). The encounter stirred a fascination in me. The Moko Kauae reminded me of the traditional Berber tattoos known as Tichrat or Taghzait seen on members of my family and on Berber women in my Moroccan home land.
What was the significance of these facial tattoos? What are the stories behind them?Was there a connection between the two?
I had uncovered a pathway which begged further investigation. Morocco and New Zealand are at the exact opposite coordinate, if I stuck a needle through Morocco; through the centre of the globe, that needle will emerge in New Zealand. Will this same needle sew a thread, trace link and ink the two traditions?
There are similarities between the Berber and Maori culture; both have experienced repression, belittlement of cultural tradition, suppression of native language and feminine disrespect.
In Berber culture, it is a disappearing tradition, found only in remote areas of Morocco, and generally on the bodies of female elders. Although language and other traditions are being revived, the Oucham is becoming increasingly taboo primarily due to religion and the perception that traditional tattoo is not acceptable in modern society. There seem to be a a great deal ignorance, lack of interest, taboo within the moroccan community itself about it.
The Moko Kauae, on the other hand, is seeing resurgence and is worn with pride by both elder and younger Maori women in the multi-cultural New Zealand environment.
I met Catherine who had decided to get tattooed at age 30 and told me her Moko design, traced her roots, identity and embodied her values and purpose in life. Like a facial life line, a purposeful representation, the wrinkles and scars of her life journey. I found this to be often the case with Maori Moko Kauae.
The Moko and Tichrat/Taghzait are a strong, beautiful ‘in your face statement’; the body acting as an eternal canvas for the landscape of personal and traditional life, facial poetry connecting the wearer to who their core, for each has a special story to it.
This is the very beginning of this work in progress where I am investigating the stories, document, portray these powerful personal representations, capture the pride and sense of identity with which they are worn. From the starting point of the facial tattoo - this project will touch on a more broad social and cultural specificity documentary.