te moko

Say hello to the Navy’s first Moko tattoo

The changing face of New Zealand’s Royal Navy is a Maori one.

After two decades of service, Rawiri Barriball is the first person to have been given clearance to wear a full-face Maori tattoo.

Barriball had to apply under special Navy law first for approval, which was granted in December.

“I've always felt I was going get it, I just wanted to achieve a few things first, my own goals, and one of them was doing 20 years' service." He says.

People’s reaction

The tattoo is striking, and took Rawiri’s brother aprox 10 hours to complete.

But Rawiri noticed how people reacted differently to him almost immediately.

“When I left my brother's house, straight away you can see the reaction of people. Even body language, which I was prepared for, but the way people talk to you, it changes," he said.

“I guess with my job being a seaman combat specialist… We're face to face with people that we're trying to help different parts of the world, if they see something as in moko they might be a bit intimidated I guess."

Barriball hoped his moko would help breakdown the stigma around facial tattoos.

"I know there's a bad rap with people having moko... the more people that get it the more it will be accepted," he said. 

"It's not something you should be scared of - I'm just like any other human being."

See Sunset for a Maori tattoo

If you’re interested in getting a Maori tattoo design, then you should come see Tristan at Sunset Tattoo.

Tristan is of Te Rarawa descent, from the Hokianga in the far north. He graduated from the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts institute in 2014 with a diploma in Whakairo Rakau (traditional wood carving). Not long before Tristan graduated, he approached Tom about learning the craft of tattooing and bringing his knowledge of carving and Maori art over to the medium

Tristan is now tattooing full time with Sunset, and specializes in Ta Moko, Blackwork, pattern work, geometric and dot-work tattoo styles.