Kaipara has a moko kauae — a sacred lower chin tattoo worn by Māori women. It's a Māori identity and prestige.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 29, 2021. It has since been updated.
Oriini Kaipara made history as she became the first person with a Māori face tattoo to present primetime news. Oriini Kaipara hosted Newshub’s 6 o’clock news, filling in for regular hosts Sam Hayes and Mike McRoberts. Kaipara is all set to permanently present the outlet's 4.30 pm bulletin but is hoping to become a presenter for the 6.00 pm slot. “It’s really exciting. I’m really enjoying it. I’m not speechless, but it’s a buzz. I am proud of how far I’ve come in being able to anchor 6 pm right now,” she said, reported Stuff. Kaipara has a moko kauae — a sacred lower chin tattoo worn by Māori women. Kaipara revealed that she got the tattoo in 2017 after learning through a DNA test that she was 100 percent Māori, reported Indy100.
Kaipara, 37, said that she understood the significance of the moment. “I’m very much aware that I’m the first [with moko kauae] to anchor a six o’clock primetime news bulletin. That is always at the back of my mind, that every step I make is like breaking through a glass ceiling,” she said. “It’s breaking new ground for us as Māori, but also for people of color,” she said. “Whether you’ve got a moko kauae or not.”
She is of Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Rangitihi descent and is also a former documentary filmmaker. She presented TVNZ’s midday broadcast in 2019 but presenting the prime-time news was a huge step forward for both Kaipara and her community. “It’s definitely a step forward and a step-up. If there was a goal for me, it would be anchoring prime-time news, and that’s happened,” she said. “We’ve got a good team at Newshub, I don’t feel the pressure as much as I used to when I first started out in journalism. But that comes with doing the hard yards, and then actually realizing it and doing it is really exciting.” One of her many joys has been the reaction of her daughter. “My youngest daughter, Ngarongo, watched it and was really proud. She said ‘You did the 6 o'clock news — I saw it, and you looked really pretty.’”
Kirituhi and Tā Moko are positive ways to enable cultural expression and pride in being Māori #acknowledgingancestors— Nanaia Mahuta (@NanaiaMahuta) March 21, 2019
"Tā moko — the art of Māori tattoo – is a unique expression of cultural heritage and identity. As moko is a Māori tradition and a symbol of integrity, Māori identity and prestige, only tattoos that are done by and on Māori are considered to be moko," according to NewZealand.com. "Today, moko is experiencing resurgence, both in traditional and modern forms. Where Māori tattoo designs are used for aesthetic reasons, without the traditional significance, this is referred to as kirituhi or skin art." Each person's moko is unique and may relate to their social status, occupation, or personal and family history.
Kaipara has been showered with positive responses in the wake of her appearance on the prime-time bulletin. For the Māori, it felt special not just to be represented but to also have someone use and correctly pronounce Māori words and place names. “Small things like saying Māori place names and leading with the Māori name first, like Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. Just hearing any little bit of Māori actually lifts them,” she said. She also has an important message for the next generation. "Don't let identity or your culture hold you back from anything. In fact, you use it as your power, to be greater and do great things for everyone,” she said.
In 2020, Nanaia Mahuta was named New Zealand's first Indigenous female foreign minister, becoming the first woman member of parliament to wear lip and chin markings, or moko kauae, reported CNN. There have also been accusations of cultural appropriation. Mike Tyson, Rihanna, and British pop star Robbie Williams were criticized for adopting Māori-style tattoos in recent years.
Oriini Kaipara, 37, is the first person in New Zealand’s history to anchor the news wearing her moko kauae, a traditional lower chin tattoo worn by Māori women. Her markings celebrate the rite of passage from girl to adulthood — symbolizing a personal process of transformation. pic.twitter.com/UBXnhuhqF5— Lakota Man (@LakotaMan1) December 28, 2021