Friday, September 15, 2006

i am not a crook

So I’m finally back in the States, at school, living my normal life, after the most incredible experience I have ever had. My entire journey to New Zealand was filled with amazing food, exceedingly hospitable and chatty people, the most stunning scenery I have ever set eyes upon, and of course some knowledge that I’m sure I couldn’t have acquired elsewhere.
Now the question you may be asking…and the first one my mother asked when I arrived home…did I get any new mods to remember my trip by? Hell fucking yea I did :o) I began considering what kind of permanent souvenir I would get months before the trip, but it was not until I had spent almost a week in New Zealand that I finally knew without a doubt what I wanted. As my tattoo artist, Chriss, and I were cruising among the lush hills and countryside of New Zealand’s North Island, I stared dreamily out the window, trying with all of my might to capture mental images of every spectacular sight we passed. Somewhere along the way, the blur of greens and yellows and blues seemed to clear up for a moment, as we passed a bouquet of my absolute most favorite kind of flower: calla lilies! I shrieked at Chriss to pull over, and he hesitatingly agreed after traveling a short distance more. I got out of the car and ran over to admire the first calla lilies I had ever seen growing in the wild – they were pure white, delicate, with stems that seemed to hold them up upon a pedestal. I knew from that moment what I wanted to represent the absurdly amazing experience that was my trip to New Zealand.
Upon first making plans to travel, I wanted to get a tattoo in the style that I was traveling to research – the Maori moko. Even after finding out that some Maori believe it is cultural appropriation to acquire a moko without some Maori background, I thought a small design with special meaning would be the perfect memento. However, after having many conversations with both contemporary NZ tattoo artist and Maori moko artists, I decided that a moko was definitely not for me. It’s not that I don’t like the style – I saw some of the most intricately beautiful pieces while I was there, and also gained a new appreciation for the use of negative space in tattooing – It was more that I came to have little respect for the way that many Maori conduct themselves. It may not be my place to make such observations, but I’m just recounting my experience – perhaps it was a singular one. In any case, I found the Maori to be quite unlike the friendly, open-minded New Zealanders. While walking down any street in New Zealand, whether it be in a large city like Auckland or a small town by the sea, nearly every person smiles at you or says hello. In contrast, the Maori villages and historical places of interest that I visited held rude, bitter, sarcastic Maori. The Maori men like to maintain their “mana,” which means power and is exemplified by a stone-faced expression. Even after breaking this initial image, those Maori who led us around their villages spoke sarcastically and made obvious jokes behind the tourists’ backs. We were even forced to participate in “the Maori version of the Hokey Pokey,” which was an obvious attempt to humiliate the visitors. I realize that it must be difficult to have people gawking at your normal day life every day, but the tourism business for Maori in New Zealand is booming. For them to hate the tourists is to hate their livelihood.
There were many other examples of disappointing behavior on the part of some Maori, which I will choose not to mention – I don’t want to offend any Maori by suggesting that they are all the same, which I am certainly not attempting to do. I will, however, mention that the opinions regarding cultural appropriation varied greatly depending on a who I spoke with. The Maori who were involved in the business of tattooing tourists and other non-Maori were completely open to the idea, but anyone else was completely opposed to it. I felt as if it was another way to take advantage of the vast amount of tourists who visit NZ each year. Oh, and how does one know whether or not they are of Maori descent, you may ask. Well the NZ government has decided that anyone who is 1/16th Maori is considered to be Maori and therefore has access to various scholarships, health benefits, and other advantages that New Zealanders do not enjoy. Finding out is as simple as handing over NZ300 for a DNA test, and voila! I don’t think I’d be particularly overjoyed to be part of a people who previously practiced cannibalism and genocide anyways…
I feel so bad to be recounting my experience with the Maori in this way, but I can’t deny the events that happened over there! I know you guys crave the truth anywhoo...
I'm struggling to catch up on the week of schoolwork I miss while I was in NZ, so it's been hard for me to get a blog in, but Friday is finally here and I had a few minutes before a enjoy my first night out since leaving the land of the long white cloud...I'll be sure to post again soon - I learned a lot and need to do a lot of research once I get some time! Butttt before I leave you I have a few pictures for show and tell today:
These are, in order: A Maori ceremony that concluded with the Hokey Pokey: Maori Style!.......; A traditional Maori meal, called a Hangi, it was steamed in a hot spring (kinda cool....); An overview of a Maori village, called a Marae; Some traditional Samoan moko tools, made of boar tusk; The gorgeous calla lilies of NZ - I have about a million more pictures of lilies from all over the island :o) ; An apprentice from Moko Ink in Auckland, giving himself a moko to represent his apprenticeship, and to get some practice non-liability style (note the gorgeous moko on his arm).


Anonymous said...

Hi, do you know what genocide means? Because if you do, who have Maori committed genocide against? (and don't say the Moriori, it has been proven conclusively, that linguistically and culturally they are a part of the Maori race, which incidentally, includes Rarotongans, Tahitians and Hawaiians, as we all identify as Maori).

annoyed Moriori.

Roko said...

Kia ora,

Do you know what genocide means? Since if you know what it means, you'd know that we've never committed it. And no, the Moriori are not a separate people, since, we too, are Maori. You also have to realise, that the Maori race extends across the Pacific, through the Cook Islands, Tahiti and Hawai'i. We all identify as Maori/Ma'ohi/Maoli, and we all recognise each other groups as being the same race of people. Just thought I'd share that with you :)

me roko

Roko said...

Kia Ora,

do you understand what the word genocide means? Because if you did, then you'd know that the Maori did not commit genocide. If you mean against the Moriori, well as a Moriori, I take offence to that since we have regarded ourselves the same as the Maori - who incidentally, are the same race of people that inhabit Tahiti (Ma'ohi), the Cook Islands (Maori), Hawai'i (Maoli) and Rapa Nui (Ma'ohi).

A maori in Montana said...

Sorry to hear that you feel that way about our maori people. Just wanted to let you know not all maori people are that way. We are a very staunch (Sometimes too much) and proud people, our customs and protocols are strict yet well respected, and in a world like today where everyone is very liberal, I can see how people can think the way you think about us.

However we are some of the most open, loving and embracing people I have known, after much travelling and learning of other cultural ethnicities. My husband is American, so thanks to him I get to see the world through both his eyes as well as my own. He always boasts about how he loves maori and respects them for how loving and receptive they have been in welcoming him into the family, even before he was a part of it. Many of my non maori, and non NZer friends also have expressed similar feelings.

Ta moko, as you will know by now is a very special and prestegious thing to our people. It shows your whakapapa, your mana, things very important to us. It is not a design like I heard you mention. It is also reserved for only maori people. In a world where traditions are dying, its one of a handful we have left and keep to ourselves. Kirituhi however, is a design, and is for anyone who choses to get one.

Just thought that I would play devils advocate and say that Im sorry that that was your experience of who you think Maori people are, but please dont label us all as being close minded, sarcastic bigots, because were not. Some of us are even educated and quite worldly.

Enlightened-One said...

This paticular forum focuses on "Ta Moko" and it may help you with your research, maybe even enlighten you on what Ta Moko really means and what it signifies.

Have A Nice Day :)

wintermute said...

I love your blog, and I'm glad you left your real impressions of New Zealand, including the Maori toursist industry.

But your comment on not wanting to be part of a people that commited genocide....If you are a white north american, then you ARE part of a people that commited genocide. I am as well. This country did not belong to 'us' orginally. And we continue to erase the past, I live in a city that has a native american name, but no one ever remarks upon it or about the people who used to live here.