Hinekura Smith

Updated: Apr 4




Ka atawhaitia au e te pā harakeke aroha o Roma Marae no reira ko Tinana te waka

ko Whangatauātia te maunga,

ko Te Rarawa te iwi.

Ka toro atu te kāwai whakapapa ki Ngā Puhi, ki Te Ati Awa hoki.

Nei rā au a Hinekura Smith e mihi atu nei ki tenei kaupapa, arā ko te moko kauwae e whakapiri mai e whakatata mai i a tātou i runga anō i te aroha.

Tīhei mauri moko!


Tua = beyond. Kiri = of the skin.

Tuākiri, identity or that which is ‘beyond the skin’.

My Moko Kauwae is part of my tuākiri, etched into my white skin with lines that bring to the surface the whakapapa Māori that lays beyond what the eyes see.

My moko kauwae is a visible marker on my face.

It is a reclaiming of an identity that colonisation attempted but failed to take from us as Māori women.



As we reclaim this birthright, who ‘can’ or ‘should’ wear Moko Kauwae continues to be entangled in colonised thinking that judges who is worthy or ready, who is Maori ‘enough’ or ‘good enough’, fluent enough, brown enough, old enough.


Enough. What is enough and according to who?

Māori women have for too long been told we are not enough.

If we wait until we are enough according to others, would we ever get there?

We. Are. Enough. Now.


Almost two years ago my Mum (70 years old) and I (42 years old) received our Moko Kauwae together, in her house, surrounded by our whānau and friends.

We had talked about wearing Moko Kauwae for many years – both of us working through our own apprehensions and anxieties about ‘who am I to wear this taonga?

You see, I am Māori and I am also white skinned (very freckled actually!) with red hair and green eyes.

My Pākehā appearance has offered me untold privilege in a society that values and accepts ‘whiteness’ as the norm.

It also brings with it some often painful challenges as I am demanded to ‘prove’ my Māori-ness in both Māori and Pākehā spaces.


As a young teenager I learnt that my Māori identity would not be recognised by my skin colour

(I once described myself as a Jaffa – red on the outside and brown on the inside!).

Instead it was becoming fluent in my reo (later becoming a secondary school te reo Māori teacher), my love of rāranga and whatu arts and my commitment to Kaupapa Māori work and research.

In my 30’s one of my beloved kuia (re)claimed and (re)named me Hinekura (formally Lisa) adding another piece to my tuakiri Māori identity puzzle.


Moko kauwae is about whakapapa Māori.

Whakapapa from the past, some of which we don’t know as our tupuna sought to assimilate to Pākehā ways, turning away from te ao Māori.

I can’t change that, but what I can influence is the direction of my whakapapa into the future as I carefully and consciously work to (re)claim what being Māori means for me and my two daughters and my future mokopuna.

Because Moko Kauwae is about whakapapa Māori and Māori women’s identity I believe it is for all Māori women and only Māori women.

It is the only identity marker we have that is just ours.


Wearing Moko Kauwae on white Māori skin is not straightforward but I trust that my tupuna have led me on this pathway of learning and growth for a reason.

As our children and mokopuna continue to look ‘less Māori’ (whatever that means!) and more Pacific, more blond and blued eyed, more Asian, more Pākehā, perhaps my purpose is to challenge stereotypes around what being Māori looks like and to encourage other fair skinned Māori women to take on their birthright.

My name is Hinekura Smith.

I am a Māori woman and my Moko Kauwae is named Hine Kahumaia - She Who is Cloaked in Courage.


Hinekura Smith | Kaitā: Stu Mcdonald

© 2019, Twisted Treaty Portraits

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