Chapter Three: Te Pehi Kupe's Moko

Geoffrey Sanborn

in Whipscars and Tattoos

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199751693
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894819 | DOI:
Chapter Three: Te Pehi Kupe's Moko

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Chapter Three retells the story of Te Pehi Kupe, a Maori chief who forced himself onto a passing ship and traveled to England. Just as the whip-scarred back of Te Ara is the central image in Chapter One, so is the moko, or facial tattoo, of Te Pehi Kupe the central image of this chapter. Understood as, in the words of the anthropologist Alfred Gell, “a barrier between a secular self and unmediated divinity” that “open[s] a space” in a world in which one is “eventually destined to be crushed,” the moko may be said to be a performative signifier of defiance, tracing out a limited but real space between nonbeing and transcendence.

Keywords: Te Pehi Kupe; Maori; moko; Alfred Gell; defiance

Chapter.  7940 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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