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Policy Regarding Display of Images of Mokamokai

Policy Regarding Display of Images of Mokamokai

Before digitising H. G. Robley's Moko; or Maori Tattooing the NZETC undertook a series of conversations and consultations with a variety of groups and individuals. We wished to better understand the sensitive issues around making publicly available online this work which, while recognised as a significant part of New Zealand's documentary heritage, contains Mātauranga that belongs to the wider Māori community and images of mokamokai and ancestral remains. A report on the issues and the consultation process is available here.

Based on consultation responses and our understanding of the issues involved we decided to digitise the work and present the text with all associated images except those depicting mokamokai or human remains. The same approach will retrospectively be taken to all other texts in the NZETC collection and to all future projects.

In addition, we also provide contextual material regarding Robley and his art, Moko; or Maori Tattooing as a work, as well as the practice of Ta Moko and creating mokamokai. In this way we hope to better support readers' understanding of the text, its topic and its author.

The decision as to whether an image is primarily a depiction of ancestral remains is sometimes difficult. In some cases a mokamokai is drawn in such as way as to be other than a documentary rendering of an identifiable individual and is therefore not considered to depict ancestral remains (for example the head on the ground). In these cases a necessarily subjective decision as been made.


We are aware that visitors to this project may want to comment upon it and we welcome your thoughts and feedback. Contact details for the NZETC Director, Alison Stevenson, are available here. There is also a discussion thread on Maori.org.nz that we post updates to and read.

If you are a member of whānau descended from the tupuna represented in this text, and would like to discuss this project with us please contact the NZETC Director. If whānau are able to provide us with whakapapa information and ask us to remove an image we will do so and replace it with a statement as to who has asked for it’s removal as well as a description of the tupuna whakapapa (to provide more information about the people drawn by Robley in his book).

Further Contributions

We are interested in adding more contextual information to this project so if you are an author of a work which you think could contribute to the debate surrounding not only Moko but contemporary treatment of traditional knowledge, recognition of cultural collective rights or any other aspect, please contact the director (see details above).