Maori tribal tattoo is actually called Ta Moko. It is how the indigenous people of New Zealand called their tradition. Their tradition is pretty distinct because not everyone in their society receives a tattoo. In fact, being a high raking person in their society doesn’t automatically earn you a tattoo. The achievements of a person are still assessed before a tattoo is given.
Maori Tribal Tattoo: History
The tradition is actually not native to the Maori tribe. It was brought in by Eastern Polynesian. The first tattoo is usually given to people reaching their adulthood. Adulthood, however, is not based on age. If a person is deemed immature, they will not be given a tattoo.
Those with tattoos are considered more attractive to the opposite sex. They are also recognized as more powerful and respected in the society.
Maori Tribal Tattoo: Background
Contemporary Maori designs are usually obtained to signify individuality and uniqueness. However, the authentic Maori designs actually symbolized a person’s connection with other people and their environment. Some of the things the Maori tattoos stand for are:
- Lineage or family connections. When lineage is tattooed, the family connections on both sides are represented.
- The group that a person belongs to. This may be in connection with their job.
- A person’s job, occupation, or abilities
- Social group or tribe within the tribe. Usually the tribes have their own unique symbols
Maori Tribal Tattoo: Methods
The Maori Tribal Tattoo is unique in that instead of simply putting ink on the skin of a person, they actually carve the skin. They chisel it. This makes the skin surface uneven, like there are humps. This, naturally, is a more painful process.
The tohunga-ta-moko use a chisel made of an albatross bone. They tie this to a wooden handle. The ink is made of awheto and charcoal of timbers. They mix this with kauri gum. The materials are kept in an oko. This same oko is passed down from generations of tohunga-ta-moko.
The method has, of course changed, as modern items are forged. Needles started being used and are thrown away after use. They have come to understand the health risks involved in using recycled materials.
Maori Tribal Tattoo: Important Details
The most common body parts where the tattoo is placed are: face, butt, thighs, neck, back, stomach, and calves.
Even women are given tattoos but it is usually placed on their face, lips and chins to be exact.
The tattooists are chosen carefully. They are respected in the society. They are the ones who come up with the design. Each design is unique to the person getting the tattoo.
Men are usually chosen. It wasn’t until the early years of the 20th century were women chosen to give tattoos.
They are also given special training. They are trained both in the cultural aspect of tattooing and the technical side of tattooing.
Maori Tribal Tattoo: Last Words
Maori Tattoo is heavy on symbolism and also more prolific in design. Other tattoos from other tribes use a lot of boxed symbols but the Maori tribal tattoo use more shapes and are more intricate in layout.