A man from New Zealand is struggling to find work thanks to his colossal face tattoo, and from afar, it looks like he's wearing a face mask or bandana. Yet, the truth is stranger than anything that crossed your mind.
Puk Kireka, 31, from Napier, recently opened up about his troubles and all thanks to that massive red and black ink on his face. Well, there's some symbolism as well, so it's not like he wanted to become an Instagram star.
Notorious or what not to tattoo on your face
The Tamatea rugby club player has tattooed more than half his face with the word "notorious" to prove this loyalty to the Mongrel Mob.
After spending five years in jail, the father of three is ready to turn his life around. He got the tattoo after joining the mob in 2008. He has been mocked online by rapper 50 Cent, who called him out on his personal Instagram page.
Kireka spent years being addicted to meth, but he's been clean for four years. What made him change his life was fitness.
He credits Tamatea rugby coach Levi Armstrong on his 31kg weight loss, and Kireka now plays for the Tamatea rugby team.
"Meeting Levi helped turn my life around. I've proved to be an inspiration for other mobsters throughout the country."
Kireka wants to continue his career in sports, but it's quite a challenge with that tattoo.
Why can't Kireka remove the tattoo?
Kireka needs money to continue his education in the sports business. Many people online are calling him out for not removing that notorious thing from his face.
The problem is that tattoo removal is a long, painful, expensive process. It costs around 10K to remove it, and it would take approximately 20 sessions.
There's with five to six weeks of rest in between each session, and he can't afford to waste all that time. Plus, there's always a chance of scarring, swelling, skin discoloration, or infection.
While people on the streets call him "mobster," yet the only thing connecting Kireka with his former gang is right there on his face.
The Mongrel Mob
The Mongrel Mob is the biggest gang in New Zealand. Rumor has it that there are branches in Australia and Canada. After joining the gang in 2008, Kireka served five years in prison non-consecutively, three years for violence-related charges, and two years for standovers.
Many members of this gang have similar tattoos across their faces. New Zealand photographer Jono Rotman spent eight years photographing over 200 members of the Mongrel Mob. He gained rare access to the gang for his project Mongrelism.
You can see from the portraits the ink is a part of their gang culture, and it means you're in the family.
When Rotman's portraits were released in 2015, it created controversies because one portrait's subject, Shano Rogue, was currently on trial for murder. Rotman defended his exhibition because of its authenticity to the project.
The photographer explained that the images are "communion with this impenetrable fraternity. Monumental portraits illustrate Mob members' assertion of membership and pride in their identity."
We can't tell whether Kireka will continue on the right path, but we do hope that he does, for the sake of his kids. One tattoo doesn't define you, though this story goes much deeper.
Here are other former and current members, as seen by Rotman's keen eye.