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).