Oriini Kaipara is the first newsreader to present a news bulletin on mainstream television adorned with a moko kauae, a traditional Maori facial tattoo. Picture: oriini_kaipara/Instagram

Wellington - New Zealand journalist Oriini Kaipara made history on Thursday when she became the first newsreader to present a news bulletin on mainstream television adorned with a moko kauae, a traditional Maori facial tattoo. 

While full facial tattoos are reserved for men, the female moko kauae is traditionally limited to the chin, lips and the area above the upper lip.

The 35-year old journalist, who got her moko in January after she discovered she had "100 percent Maori ancestry," told TVNZ the tattoo was very personal and was a commitment to the indigenous language te reo Maori. 

Ocean Mercier, head of Victoria University's School of Maori Studies, told local media platform Stuff that seeing someone bearing a moko kauae on the state broadcaster was "a pretty awesome signal of how far society has come in terms of accepting expression of culture."

While the chin-tattoos were prominent in photos of women from around the time of New Zealand's colonization, they had become less common as there was "shame attached to them that's associated with colonisation," Mercier said. 

In 2016, Nanaia Mahuta became the first member of the New Zealand parliament to wear a moko kauae.

"People look at you differently. It's a cultural marker, and it says clearly when I'm sitting round a table that I represent a certain way of thinking," the veteran politician, who has been a lawmaker for 20 years, said in an interview.

dpa