Moko Smith and Uhi Tapu - Fashioning Assembly Aotearoa

Mokonui-a-rangi Smith, is of Māori descent, hailing from Te Arawa, Tainui, Takitimu and Horouta waka, along with his European heritage. Moko, his shortened name, is also the Māori word for tattoo.

Tattooing is an ancient practice that has navigated its way across Polynesia carried in the skin of the wearers and in the minds and tools of the practitioners. It acknowledges the human need to beautify, sanctify and embody elements of heritage, culture and experience. 

Image 1: Moko Smith, photographer Seb Charles. Other image shows Moko's process.

Working under the moniker Uhi Tapu, meaning Sacred Tattoo Tools, Moko has developed a personal practice that uses traditional hand tools and tapping methods. In hitting the sticks together to place the ink under the skin, there is an immediate link to the past. The sound the tools make is the same sound our ancestors heard in their time, the bite of the bone teeth in the skin is the same feeling our ancestors felt in their time. In this process, there is a closing down of time and space; a taking part in a profound process of introspection, identity shift, personal articulation and growth.


Moko shares his process and ethos with Fashioning Assembly Hui Auaha o Aotearoa:


Find out more by visiting his website or by following him @uhi_tapu on Instagram.



Fashioning Assembly Aotearoa was supported by the City Centre targeted rate. 

Global Fashioning Assembly 2022 was supported by the Creative Industries fund NL. 


insta: @globalfashioningassembly