Monday, April 7, 2008


The Maori people along with many other Polynesian people believed that a persons life force or ‘mana’ is displayed through their tattoo.  The Ta moko a Maori form of facial tattoo was given to Maori tribesman to indicate their heritage, decent and status in the tribe.  They were also given to signify their exploits and great events in their lives.

 The Maori people were and still are renowned as master carvers and their magnificent wood and stone carvings have covered their totems, buildings, implements and jewellery for hundreds of years.  This carving skill was translated across into tattooing, with moko tattoos literally being carved into the skin with a chisel.  In early times the chisels used were crafted from bone and the blade was quite wide. This supports the fact that early moko designs were quite rectilinear in pattern. However as the art progressed the patterns became more spiral and curvilinear.  These spiral designs have become a major part of what the Maori people are recognized for.

Maori tattoo art has set itself aside from tattooing in the traditional sense due to the fact that Maori tattoos are carved into the skin rather than being punctured.  This slow and painful process gives the tattoo a unique look that you are unable to achieve with a needle.

Maori tattoos have made somewhat of a renaissance in recent years, with the tribal style of tattooing becoming increasingly popular.  However, it is never ok to use a moko pattern for your own design, as they are individual to a Maori person and to replicate them is the ultimate form of plagiary and a direct insult to Maori people.



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