Truth and Reconciliation

Soon-to-be-Dr Kelly Klink on the suffering and healing potential of Ngāti Rehua

Kelly Klink is among a new generation of Ngāti Rehua wāhine to wear a moko kauae. 
Her moko was tattooed at Kawa Marae alongside kaumātua and whānau two years ago.

Kelly Klink & Tim Higham

The 51-year-old and mother of four sons is about to receive her doctorate from Auckland University on the history and tikanga of Ngāti Rehua. Her whakapapa goes back 32 generations to the eponymous ancestor, Toi te huatahi and 12 generations to Rehua.

In an interview with Aotea FM this week, Kelly explained what it was like growing up Māori, “I was in an era where Māori wasn’t spoken in school, we were beaten, we were called dirty Māori. We protest from the day we are born, it is fighting for survival, fighting to be here,” she said.

But Kelly believes things are starting to change. “In this generation we see this proudness. Our children can just be, can be free. You see how alive they are, how proficient they are with their tikanga, with their reo, and just being Māori.”

“A lot of our learning and education comes from being connected to the whenua, standing and listening to what it is telling us.”

While she welcomes understanding and support “we want Pākehā to let us be now. It’s important to understand that this island was stolen – that you now sit in a seat of privilege. This is our time to have a voice and to be Māori, we don’t need to be spoken for anymore.”

But Māori and Pākehā can work together to look after the whenua, she says. “Being connected and knowing our stories is important.”

Kelly’s moko kauae is one of the first tattooed on the island since Moko Mere who escaped an orphanage in the 1870s. She was a young Irish women who was provided refugee to by
Kelly’s “Nanny” who was the last chieftainess to wear the chin tattoo.
The design is in honour of her tupuna, Raihi Miraka whose pou sits within Kawa Marae.

Words by Georgie Higham, from Interviews with Tim Higham – Mondays 9-12 on Aotea FM

Access Kelly’s full interview here: