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Maia Berryman-Kemp

Maia Berryman-Kemp presents at the Rainbow Studies Now symposium, held on 23 November 2023 at Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington.

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The presentation by Maia Berryman-Kemp delves into the complex interplay between tattoos, identity, and social constructs. Berryman-Kemp, who has a significant number of tattoos themselves, uses their body art as a lens to explore broader themes of self-expression, societal norms, and the tension between personal and collective identities.

The presentation begins with Berryman-Kemp highlighting the distinction between their indigenous ta moko and their queer tattoos. The ta moko, obtained at 17, represents more than personal choice; it signifies family, growth, and protection, reflecting the indigenous belief in tattoos as a communal and identity-affirming practice. In contrast, their queer tattoos, which include a mix of playful and symbolic designs, represent a more individualistic approach, showcasing personal beliefs and preferences.

Berryman-Kemp further discusses the intersection of indigenous and queer identities through their tattoos. They point out the stereotypical perceptions and misunderstandings surrounding indigenous tattoos in the broader context of society, noting how these tattoos often signify deeper communal and historical connections, contrasting with the more individual-focused nature of queer and Western tattoos.

The presentation also touches on the transformative power of tattoos. Berryman-Kemp recounts a personal experience where their shark tattoo, initially a symbol of tribal heritage, became a source of confidence and self-reassurance. This shift in meaning underscores the fluidity of tattoo symbolism and its impact on personal identity and perception.

Critically, Berryman-Kemp addresses the problematic aspects of Western tattoo culture, including the appropriation of indigenous styles and the commercialization of body art. They critique the superficial adoption of indigenous tattoo practices by non-indigenous individuals, highlighting the cultural insensitivity and ignorance often involved in such acts.

In conclusion, Berryman-Kemp calls for a more nuanced understanding of tattoos, advocating for a perspective that respects the complex interplay of personal choice, cultural heritage, and societal influence. They emphasize the need to recognize tattoos as both individual expressions and reflections of broader social and cultural narratives.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

Record date:23rd November 2023
Location:Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (reference number to be confirmed).