Oriini Kaipara Newshub NZ newsreader scorned over Maori ‘moko kauae’ face tattoo responds to critics in Instagram post defending the cultural practice among indigenous women.
Oriini Kaipara came to wider prominence last year, when the reporter became the first person to anchor a primetime TV news bulletin with a moko kauae, a cultural marking worn by Māori women.
Debate as to the appropriateness of an anchor bearing any tattoo markings came to fore once again, after a ‘disgruntled’ viewer, going by the name of David wrote to the the woman’s employer, Newshub, to complain about Kaipara’s ‘offensive’ tattoo.
‘We continue to object strongly to you using a Māori newsreader with a moku (moko) which is offensive and aggressive looking,’ the viewer wrote in an email.
‘A bad look. She also bursts into the Māori language which we do not understand. Stop it now.’
‘I gather your complaints stem from a place of preference on how one must look on-screen according to you,’
Pushing back, Kaipara responded on Instagram, describing David as the ‘gift that keeps giving’.
‘Today I had enough. I responded. I never do that. I broke my own code and hit the send button,’ she wrote on an Instagram story with a screenshot of David’s message.
Kaipara also shared her email response to David where she said she found his complaints ‘difficult’ to take seriously ‘given there is no breach of broadcast standards’.
She also took exception to David’s incorrect spelling of moko.
‘I gather your complaints stem from a place of preference on how one must look on-screen according to you,’ she wrote.
‘Moko and people with them are not threatening nor do they deserve such discrimination, harassment and prejudice.
‘We mean no harm or ill intent nor do we/I deserve to be treated with such disregard.
Indigenous amongst Anglo Saxon settlers imposing their own culture, tastes and preferences
‘Please refrain from complaining further, and restrain your cultural ignorance and bias for another lifetime, preferably in the 1800s.’
The seasoned reporter later said similar complaints were a ‘minority’, saying she mostly received supportive messages.
‘The fact that my existence triggers some people is testament to why we need more Māori advocates in key roles across every sector,’ she told the New Zealand Herald.
The mother-of-four from Auckland discovered she was 100 per cent Māori after taking a DNA test in 2017.
The newsreader then decided to adopt the Māori tattoo in 2019 in a process known as Tā moko, which represents family heritage and social status.
For Māori women the moko was a rite of passage, marking the passage between girl and adulthood and symbolises transformation.
Fearless indigenous women owning their own cultural veracity
In 2019 when she became the first person with a face tattoo to present mainstream news when filling in for TVNZ’s midday broadcast – two years before taking up the primetime spot on Newshub.
Ms Kaipara is bilingual and of Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Rangitihi descent, something she proudly displays while working as a prominent journalist.
TVNZ presenter Te Rauhiringa Brown faced similar comments for presenting Sunday night’s weather forecast in te reo Māori.
TVNZ declared to the Herald that it is proud of its presenters and encourages them to use English and Māori on broadcasts.
New Zealand’s foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta also has a moko kauae, becoming the first female MP to wear one in parliament.
The politician has links to Māori royalty, with her father the adopted son of King Korokī.
She got the tattoo in 2016 and said it offers ‘positive ways to enable cultural expression and pride in being Māori.’