Dont fear the moko, dont fear Māori: Mum with facial tattoo asked to leave Havelock North park

A mother of four says she was told to cover up her moko kauae tattoo or leave a playground in Havelock North because she was “scaring the children”.

Jay Scott, 31, says the incident was not only disrespectful to her but also her family and ancestors, and has implored people to be kind.

It comes as a community leader says she is sadly not surprised by the behaviour and believes many people’s attitudes still need to change.

Scott has been living in Havelock North for about a year and has worn a moko kauae on her chin for the past three years.

Scott said she was approached by two women while at Havelock North Village Green playground last Wednesday afternoon, following a fun day out with her kids.

“I didn’t know who they were, I have never met them in my life,” she said.

“They started asking ‘do I live in the area? Do I come from here? What is my address?’ – it was quite confronting.

“I picked up on the energy … that they do not like me here or want me here. I just had to ignore them. With my mana, I had to withhold.”

The abuse only got worse as she continued to ignore the rude women, while sitting under a canopy with her six-month-old.

She said they even told her to cover her chin “because I was scaring the children”.

“They said if I don’t cover it can I please leave.”

She did not leave and allowed her children to continue to play.

She said the women appeared to be in their early 40s and one was of Caucasian appearance. Scott was unsure of the ethnicity of the second woman.

Scott, who is of Ngāpuhi descent, posted a message about the incident on a Facebook community group and received a flood of support from people shocked at what occurred.

“It really hurt me, because moko kauae means so much to me and our people.

“It is not just a tattoo to us. They not only insulted me but they insulted my ancestors, my tipuna.”

She said her great-grandmother was the last one to wear a moko kauae in her family and it was partly an acknowledgement to her.

Scott recently had another cultural tattoo, also representing her ancestry, completed on her neck.

Scott said her family loved living in Havelock North and she did not think the incident was a reflection on the wider community.

She said she had also been back to the park many times with her kids.

Hawke’s Bay community leader Heather Te Au-Skipworth, who founded IronMāori and proudly wears a moko kauae, said she was not surprised by the incident.

“I’m not surprised at all.

“I think the message that needs to be put out in the public is ‘don’t fear the moko, don’t fear Māori, and don’t fear what we have to offer’.”

She said more and more wahine were wearing the cultural tattoo, and it would only become more prominent in years to come.

“It is a big sense of pride for us as Māori. It is a reclamation of who we are.”

Greens MP Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, from the East Coast, said the incident was very sad.

“Moko kauae is part of Māori culture and has been back now for many, many years. I feel really sad for the wahine that had to experience that,” she said.

“As someone who carries the moko kauae, and is very proud to do that, we know that once you get one of these you get stares, you get people asking you questions, and that comes with the territory.”

She said it was fine for people to ask questions about the cultural significance of carrying a moko, but to insult someone was unacceptable.

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