Māori tattooing leaves a permanent impression at IMEX

Christina Nordine and Arekatera ‘Katz’ Maihi.

The presence of tā moko artist Arekatera ‘Katz’ Maihi on the 100% Pure New Zealand stand at IMEX Frankfurt has left its mark on at least 10 international delegates.

The lucky 10 received a tā moko – traditional Māori tattoo – from Maihi who is from the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, while hundreds more onlookers were also left with a new understanding of New Zealand culture.

“He was so popular we had a waitlist for the waitlist,” said Tourism New Zealand’s global manager business events, Anna Fennessy.

“Some people who missed out were asking if we would be doing tā moko at our next trade show. It definitely attracted attention on the show floor and proved a great way to engage and connect with our Māori culture.”

Once curious visitors to the stand had established that the tattoos were permanent, they were fascinated by the cultural aspect of tā moko and the stories they expressed, Fennessy says. In the tā moko process, no design ideas are shown in advance. The artist listens to the recipient’s kōrero (narrative) and, using their knowledge of traditional Māori designs, brings to life their individual story.

Maria Suurballe, conference manager at the Danish Institute for Sport Studies/Play the Game, admits getting tā moko at IMEX 2019 “was pretty spontaneous” but felt the artist quickly understood her personal story, paying tribute to three people she has lost that meant a lot to her.

“I am so happy about my tā moko,” she said. “These three people have been my dearest relatives, friends and soulmates, and I miss them all every day. So now I have a tattoo that symbolizes a face which can be divided into three faces – and in this way I can carry my dearest loved ones with me every day.”

Christina Nordine, senior account manager at Creative Group Inc, was another delegate who left the stand with more than just a memory.

“The tā moko I received at IMEX Frankfurt is a beautiful gift that I will always cherish,” she said. “It represents the beauty in my journey, my son, all that is important to me, and is such a unique branding that connects me in a really special way to New Zealand’s Māori culture.

“While I was chatting with Katz, his true kindness and positive energy shined so abundantly and spread throughout the community at the show – so many people visited during my appointment and also afterwards! I will continue to share my story for years to come; and one day my journey will surely take me to visit my new friends in New Zealand!”