Maori tattoo artists in demand

01:43, Jan 31 2009
LOCAL ENDEAVOUR: Mihi Anderson with some of the Maori art The Taniwha Shop sells on behalf of local artists.

The Taniwha Shop owner Moera Anderson has taken advantage of a rise in the number of people wanting traditional Maori tattoos.

Five years ago, when Mr Anderson could no longer accommodate the large number of people coming to his home for ta moko, traditional Maori tattoos, he opened his first commercial studio in Richmond St in Hamilton.

But with customer numbers continuing to rise, Mr Anderson moved again, in 2006, to a shop in Nawton's Grandview mall.

Mr Anderson's sister, Mihi Anderson, who also works in the shop, said: " ... Moera needed a bigger studio for all the customers and their whole whanau to sit down and break bread, talk and karakia [pray]."

Ms Anderson said the customer surge was an outcome of a resurgence in the popularity of Maori art and a large number of people returning for a second or third tattoo.

Staff numbers had grown from five to about 20 part-time and full-time tattoo artists since 2003.


Ms Anderson said: "The artists do not make huge amounts of money but they do it for the love of it.

"A lot of them have full-time jobs but they do this as a hobby because, a lot of the time, it is their everything."

Ms Anderson said The Taniwha Shop's service and products were available to everyone, regardless of culture.

"We do have a few pakeha (customers) and we do pretty much anyone as long as their reasons are right. I just like to share all this knowledge instead of keeping it close by making it open and inviting the whole nation to experience it."

However, because of The Taniwha Shop's focus on Maori designs and protocols, people who want more mainstream tattoos are referred to other tattoo artists or offered an alternative design.

For instance if someone asked for a skull, Ms Anderson said they would suggest using a manaia head, which is a mythical creature like a taniwha.

Ms Anderson said staff encouraged people to investigate their background to arrive at a design with personal meaning.

"We get the customer to research where they come from, who their ancestors are and what are their mountain, river, and all those sorts of things," she said.

The shop also sells jewellery, bone and wood carvings, flax kete (bags) and other traditional and contemporary Maori art. The items are sold on behalf of local artists.

Mr Anderson's second shop, in Ohaupo, sells art work between September and May.

-Karla Akuhata is a Wintec journalism student.


Waikato Times