Who am I to wear Moko Kauae

Navigation of the kaupapa

challenging & changing the view of Moko Kanohi to an ever-changing world through a collaboration of mana wāhine, storytelling & photography, social media & creating space.



In the midst of the struggles that 2017 bought forward, late April Twisted Treaty Portraits was launched.

An early vision of Putaangas was to photograph a wahine who wore her Moko Kauae although not having many in her immediate whānau that wore Moko Kanohi, it wasn't until sitting in Bridge Pa when Putaanga first met her aunty Te Aroha Sheree Manihera who received her Moko Kauae from Kaitā Derek Lardelli after many years of yearning.

The portrait session went ahead & the intention was to share her portrait alongside her story on social media, much like Humans of New York blogger Brandon Stanton, which soon went viral.

Putaanga was certain of two things, one, the kaupapa of sharing stories of wāhine mau Moko was needed for Ao Māori & te ao hurihuri. 2, Moko Kauae was the birthright of women who carry Māori whakapapa.

It was here that she knew one day an exhibition would open called "Who am I to wear Moko Kauae".

Throughout 2018 Putaanga gained experience & connections through her photography work. Dedicating her approach to kaupapa Māori which brought forward multiple opportunities of documenting women who were receiving their Moko Kauae. Using multimedia as her koha to women on their own journeys, Putaanga became sought after all over Aotearoa for the mahi she gave with no expectations.

With her deep passion for photography & videography, Putaanga decided it would be time to think about curate the exhibition, tūturu to the kaupapa of Wāhine mau Moko.

Early 2019 a karanga was released on Twisted Treaty which drew interest from all over Aotearoa & abroad as many responded to the kaupapa, from there Putaanga set off on her journey which took her all over Aotearoa. Tamakimakaurau, Ihumatao, Tauranga Moana, Matakana Island, Rotorua, Ruatoria, Otaki, Titahi Bay, Poneke, Motueka to Central Otago.

Many of the wāhine had never met Putaanga before, so of course, it takes a rare kind to carry that wairua in which people feel safe to share & trust in for a project that would be made public.


The journey became rich with the connections made that will last a lifetime which also awhi Putaanga through her own journey of yearning Moko Kauae.

Shortly after her return from Matakana Island, Putaanga found herself in Tamakimakaurau ready to reveal her own as the world transitioned into Kōanga. Hinemarama was brought fourth while surrounded by Putaangas most loved whānau. 


"The biggest part of the final process was the whare that would hold our wāhine. Wanting to step out of my zone, deciding that only way to properly honor ngā wāhine is to print lifesize so when the first print arrived & I realized I didn't think about how I would possibly frame them - it became tricky as my style is not  matte black or white frames (nuh uh, bored! I won't do it!)


Looking at every alternative it was just not realistic so late November I saw Joe at an exhibition opening, asking him & another bro for advice on what do to - expecting A3 then I said A0 (LOL) instead of palming me off, he came up with an idea, a solution.

Recycled wood. Wood that had once held together state homes in Kahungunu, that alone is a huge tohu for Māori people & has been for many moons beyond my own. Being a somewhat privileged child I never lived in one but the majority of the whānau & friends connected to me do/did.

Late Jan we started to prepare by collecting wood from the local recyclers.

With awhi from Nigel from EIT Ideas School, they both cut & mitered the wood and from there we had our first look at a frame. A truly breathtaking moment for me. The contrast of the sharp portrait & the boujeeness & rusticness of the wood became an authentic collaboration of Joe & me. 

Being my kaitiaki through the hardest shit that was being dealt in this short time, all the way to transporting them to the gallery himself to getting them inside ready for hanging.

Asking nothing in return."


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Rāhtapu 15 Maramatoru | Karakia | Private viewing 

The waka had made its way to shore. 

As you stepped into the gallery, it was a sight you'd never be able to forget & to be in the presence of Mana wāhine.

My grandparents were the first to come into the gallery as my Papa would be the one to open the space via Karakia. 

Ngā wāhine nō te moutere Matakana had travelled down to be here, see the space before the public. Whaea Kirihi, Amo & Marlene - all their portraits were side by side. They were joined by whānau who traveled from Palmy so they could share the moment too. 

Also being the first time we'd reunited since our meeting on Matakana Island in early August, not long following that I mau Moko.


Rāhine 16 Maramatoru | Karanga | Public opening 

The waka had made its way to shore. 

Karanga began at 6pm sharp, the gallery soon was filled with voices that reached the realms beyond our own, it was truly an amazing experience witnessing Mana wāhine & what Mana Motuhake truly means.

As manuhiri filled the gallery, wāhine sang, danced, haka, karanga & cried.

It was truly an experience only captured by those present.

Never in my vision or my moemoea did I expect the kaupapa to call to so many, & have this response.

I stepped into the middle of the gallery to mihi, my wairua felt so full, I was so grateful. 

I dedicated this space to our Tūpuna before us,
- The ones who were dressed in foreign clothing & forced in front of the camera for monetary gain.
- The ones who were painted & sold, now hang in homes of strangers all over the world, for monetary gain.
- The ones who resisted, the ones who fought, the ones whose stories were never told, the ones who were silenced, the ones Cook opened fire on, the ones who profit off us but don't share the blood, our pacifica tūpuna whose bodies were sexualized for the western gaze.
- Ngā wāhine i roto i te whakaahua, toku whānau, Stacey, Samuel & Keira, tōku tamāhine. This mahi is for you.

Ancestors, WE made it here. & WE ARE NOT FOR SALE!

© 2019, putaanga

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