New Zealand: Book pulled after author criticises Maori tattoo

Really? The face of NZ’s new Foreign Minister? Facial tattoos are not exactly a polished, civilised presentation for a foreign diplomat in the 21st Century. Ffs! Jacinda has gone full wokelette on stilts.

— Olivia Pierson (@PiersonOlivia) November 2, 2020

Then I’ll say it again - facial tattoos, especially on a female diplomat, is the height of ugly, uncivilised wokedom!

— Olivia Pierson (@PiersonOlivia) November 2, 2020

I am not a fan of the so-called “cancel culture”, but describing one of the most distinctive and visible manifestations of Māori culture as “ugly” and “uncivilised” is totally unacceptable. What Ms Pierson seems to be saying is that a Māori person should only represent New Zealand internationally if they are doing their best to look as much like a European person as possible.


While I wouldn’t agree with that position, why should her books be pulled just because she expresses it?

I’d leave them on the shelves, let those want to buy them. I certainly don’t agree with her idiotic point of view though, I’ve worked with Maoris with such tattoos and one of them was a seminarian and these tattoos are not a matter of trying to look edgy or cool, they are part of a particular culture.


While I agree the point of view is idiotic and insensitive, I am also sure this author will find plenty of other ways to sell her book and the Streisand effect will probably result in increased sales for her.

1 Like

Unfortunately very likely, also some people will start wibbling on about how the Maoris need to ‘adapt’ etc. etc.

No argument. I wouldn’t buy them either. That’s different than pulling them off the shelf b

@JonNC @JharekCarnelian @Tis_Bearself

I would agree that all this is likely to do is give publicity to somebody virtually nobody had heard of before now. On the other hand, Mighty Ape is a company, not a public institution. It’s up to them what they feel happy selling. Perhaps they thought this was the one way in which they could show their disapproval.

So she has a face tattoo. OK. Nobody has said what it means, what it signifies, what it says to other Maori who can read the symbols. It would seem that that makes all the difference.

Nobody is questioning the right of the store to stop selling the book, (though here in the US we’re told pharmacies must sell things the owner disapproves of, for example).
My point is the principle of the free exchange of ideas.

They are a record of the person’s genealogy. I’ve worked with Maori’s with them. Women normally only have it on the chin like this lady, some males have it on the whole face but that died out as a custom for a time before resurfacing. It was also surpressed by law at one point so it is a touchy subject.

1 Like

I am not sure what your point is. Surely it is sufficient to know that New Zealand (Aotearoa) was inhabited by Māori long before it was inhabited by Europeans. Therefore, I do not think that a European New Zealander has any business saying that a Māori woman should not serve as our foreign minister basically because she looks too much like a Māori. Māori culture is New Zealand culture. To say that Māori culture is “ugly” and “uncivilised” is itself ugly and uncivilised. Therefore, I do not see that the precise meaning of Ms Mahuta’s moko kauae makes any difference to anything.

As @JharekCarnelian has said, a large part of the interpretation of Māori tattoos is indeed to do with genealogy (whakapapa). When a man has his whole face tattooed, somebody who is sufficiently knowledgeable about Māori culture should be able to interpret details about his family, social status, and occupation. In the case of Ms Mahuta’s tattoo, it is specifically based on a design from the ridgepole of her ancestral meeting house. In fact, she has several other tattoos on her chest, back, shoulders, and feet. Her tattoos represent her father (Sir Robert Mahuta), her aunt (the Māori queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu), and her children.

My two nieces in New Zealand (who have three-quarters Māori ancestry) have beautiful moko kauae. My daughter (who has one-quarter Māori ancestry) is very enthusiastic about Māori culture, but has no plans to get moko kauae (although she does have other moko). Basically, she’s worried about permanently changing the appearance of her face, but she also worries about how a facial tattoo would be perceived outside New Zealand (she currently lives in the UK). She is a paediatrician, so when she mentioned this, I said that I was sure that her patients would think that she was pretty cool (or whatever they say these days). She said it wasn’t the children she’d be worried about! Interestingly, although it is strongly disapproved of for a non-Māori to have moko, the Māori deem anybody who has a Māori ancestor to be a Māori, so my daughter and her cousins are equally entitled to have moko kauae. As I am not in any way Māori, my own Māori tattoo is regarded as “kirituhi” rather than “moko”.

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit