Tā moko helps Māori recover from addiction

By Jessica Tyson

Tohunga Mark Kopua (Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, Ngāti Ira & Ngāti Porou) suggests that Tā moko has a role to play in addiction recovery and mental health service delivery. 

The Tā moko artist of 30 years noted that moko recipients will often open up about their addictions and mental health struggles when undergoing the arduous process.

Kopua stated, “He rawe te ringa tā moko mō tēnā mea te kōrero”.

He has since gone on with his wife Diana to found Te Kūwatawata, a groundbreaking kaupapa Māori mental health service that uses Mātauranga and Pūrākau Māori to assist their patients.

“Kua ki ake he anga he aromatawai tutakitaki, he momo matatakitaki he momo whakamātautau i te tangata. Inaianei, kei te ki ake he ko te mahi atua he ahuatanga mataora pēnei he way of being tō āhua tāngata, tō āhua mataora

"Mehemea ka whakaaro ai tātou ko pōhēhē? Pea ai tātou he therepuetic model he kōrero ana pēnei he whakatika i tetahi hē. Engari ko tō mātou e whakaaro ana, kao, he whakapakari ana i te pai. Koira tō mātou e kimi ana te kura e huna ana. Koira tā mātou mahi".

Kopua says that at least two moko recipients a month will open up to him about their mental health struggles or addictions.

"He hononga ngāwari nei te whakawhanaunga atu te ringa tā moko ki te iwi nā te ahuatanga o ōna mahi. Nā reira ka huri ake, ka aro ake ki te wāhinga hou o te hinengaro mō ngā tāngata e kimi ana i te moko, he kimi tērā mō tō rātou whakapapa. Nā reira he āhuatanga tūhonohono ā roto, tūhonohono ā waho tērā mahi te kimi tō whakapapa mō te tangata”.

Kopua spoke of how the process of receiving a moko leads on to people seeking their whakapapa and how that is a great assist in healing mental and emotional anguish. The latest Chief Coroner report showed that the number of Māori deaths by suicide last year was the highest since records began.

“Pēnei tonu ngā tāngata kei te ora tonu ahakoa i kaha rātou i te whakamōmori i a rātou i whakamate i a rātou. I haere mai me tō rātou pūrakau. Mō ō rātou, tonu e hikoi ana i te hikoi a te ora i te mea, i kimai tetahi e toru ngā wā i hē, i hapa, i te ora tonu ai ia ka whakaaro anō e toru ōku ai i kaha tonu ki te whakamate i au. Nā reira ko tana tonu, he rā tonu pea ko te huarahi e tika ana mōna ko te huarahi o te ora”.

Kopua also asserted that addiction is not the actual problem, but rather, it is the indicator of underlying problems.

“Ko te nuinga tonu o mātou kei te mohio, ehara i te kai kino o te waipiro o te taru te hē. Ko te hē ānō tētahi kaupapa kei raro ki tērā hua. Ko te mate kē kei raro i tērā. Nā reira mō mātou o te hunga ringa tā moko e kimi ana i te take ā raro".