A high-profile newsreader in New Zealand has publicly slapped down an irate viewer who had repeatedly complained about her traditional face tattoo.
In 2021, Newshub presenter Oriini Kaipara became the first person to anchor a prime time news broadcast in NZ bearing a moko kauae, a traditional Maori tattoo that covers a woman’s lips and chin.
“It’s a huge honor. I don’t know how to deal with the emotions,” Kaipara told CNN at the time.
She said she got her moko in 2019 to remind herself of her identity as a Maori woman.
“When I doubt myself, and I see my reflection in the mirror, I’m not just looking at myself,” she explained.
“I’m looking at my grandmother and my mother, and my daughters, and those to come after me, as well as all the other women and Maori girls out there. It empowers me.”
While Ms Kaipara was applauded by many, some viewers did not support her. And on Thursday morning the journalist took to Instagram to respond to one such viewer, saying she’d “had enough” of his complaints.
“Today I had enough. I responded. I never do that. I broke my own code and hit the send button,” she told her followers.
The viewer in question, identified only as David, had written to Newshub’s entire newsroom. Mislabelling Kaipara’s tattoo as a “moku”, he said it was “offensive” and “a bad look”.
He also objected to the newsreader’s use of the Maori language – though the language features in most New Zealand TV broadcasts.
“We continue to object strongly to you using a Maori TV presenter with a moku, which is offensive and aggressive looking. A bad look,” David wrote.
“She also bursts into the Maori language which we do not understand. Stop it now.”
In her Instagram posts, Kaipara shared her full response to him.
“Thank you for all your complaints against me and my ‘moku’. I do find them very difficult to take seriously, given there is no breach of broadcast standards,” she wrote.
“If I may, I’d like to correct you on one thing – it is moko not ‘moku’. A simple, helpful pronunciation guide of ‘Maw-Caw’ will help you articulate the word correctly.
“I gather your complaints stem from a place of preference on how one must look on-screen, according to you. Moko and people with them are not threatening, nor do they deserve such discrimination, harassment or prejudice.
“Moko are ancient cultural markings unique to the indigenous people of Aotearoa, myself included. We mean no harm or ill intent, nor do we deserve to be treated with such disregard. Please refrain from complaining further, and restrain your cultural ignorance and bias for another lifetime, preferably in the 1800s.”
Kaipara signed off from her message with, “Nga mihi matakuikui o te wa,” which is a polite farewell, and described herself as “the lady with the moko kauwae who speaks Maori but MOSTLY English on TV”.
Speaking to The New Zealand Herald afterwards, Kaipara said the specific viewer she’d responded to had been “relentless” in his complaints.
“These types of complaints are being sent by a minority,” she stressed, saying she also received a great many “lovely and thoughtful” messages.
“The fact that my existence triggers some people is testament to why we need more Maori advocates in key roles across every sector.”