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M*ori Tattooing - worldlitproject717

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MДЃori TДЃ Moko
Ruth Phillips
TДЃ Moko
• Tā moko is the permanent body and face marking
by MДЃori people.
• It’s not exactly like tattooing in that the skin was
carved by chisels rather than punctured. This left
the skin with grooves, rather than a smooth surface.
• The Moko is similar to an identity card, or passport.
For men, the Moko showed their rank, their status
and their ferocity.
• The wearer's position of power and authority could
be instantly recognized in his Moko.
• According to Māori mythology, tattooing
commenced with a love affair between a man
named Mataora (which means "Face of Vitality")
and a princess of the underworld named Niwareka.
• According to archaeological evidence, tattooing
came to New Zealand from Eastern Polynesian
• In New Zealand, it is in the early sites that the widest
chisel blades are found.
o Lends evidence to the theory that there was possibly a preference
towards rectilinear (straight lined) tattoo patterns in earlier times.
Background Cont…
• The head was considered the most sacred part of
the body, and because tattooing caused blood to
run the tattoo craftsmen were very tapu (sacred)
• All high-ranking Māori were tattooed, and those
who went without tattoos were seen as persons of
no social status.
• Tattooing commenced at puberty, accompanied
by many rites and rituals. In addition to making a
warrior attractive to women, the tattoo practice
marked both rites of passage and important events
in a person's life.
Maori Moko- traditional facial
• The tattoo instrument was a bone chisel, either with a
serrated or an extremely sharp straight edge.
• The first stage of the tattoo commenced was the
graving of deep cuts into the skin.
• Next, a chisel was dipped into a sooty type pigment
such as burnt Kauri gum or burnt vegetable caterpillars,
and then tapped into the skin.
• It was an extremely painful and long process, and often
leaves from the native Karaka tree were placed over the
swollen tattoo cuts to hasten the healing process.
• During the tattooing process, flute music and chant
poems were performed to help soothe the pain.
Process Cont…
• There were certain prohibitions during the tattooing
process, and for the facial tattoo in particular sexual
intimacy and the eating of solid foods were
• In order to overcome this, liquid food and water
was drained into a wooden funnel, to ensure that
no contaminating product came into contact with
the swollen skin.
o This was also the only way the tattooed person could eat until his or her
wounds healed.
TДЃ Moko Designs
The women were not as extensively tattooed as the men. Their
upper lips were outlined, in dark blue. The nostrils were also very
finely incised. The chin moko was always the most popular, and
continued to be practiced even into the 1970s.
The male facial tattoo - Moko - is generally divided into eight
sections :
Ngakaipikirau (rank). The center forehead area
Ngunga (position). Around the brows
Uirere (hapu rank). The eyes and nose area
Uma (first or second marriage). The temples
Raurau (signature). The area under the nose
Taiohou (work). The cheek area
Wairua (mana). The chin
Taitoto (birth status). The jaw
Ancestry is indicated on each side of the face. The left side is
generally the father's side and the right side is the mother's
The tattoo designs themselves came from life’s force and energy.
Modern TДЃ Moko
• The Māori tradition of tattooing lost much of its
significance after the coming of European settlers.
• Māori traditions have become more known and
popular since the 1990s.
• Most modern Māori tattoos are on the body rather
than the face and ink is used instead of powder
and chisels.
• It is considered insulting for a non-māori to wear a
MДЃori tattoo pattern because you are stealing part
of their identity.
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