History of a Tattoo ~ Maori Style

Every time I start to think about getting another tattoo, I get the urge to do a post on another style. To continue my History of a Tattoo Series I chose Maori style tattooing or Ta Moko (to strike or tap). Ta Moko is the process of marking the body permanently with certain designs by using phi (chisels) to carve the skin rather than puncture it. Ouch!

Maoris are the original inhabitants of New Zealand. Maori is one of my all time favourites because of the cultural significance behind each design. Each design is worn for its personal significance being either; tribal history, eligibility to marry, rank, genealogy, identification and marks of beauty or ferocity. The traditional Maoris take offence to non Maori individuals imitating their culture for the sake body art. Ta Moko is the tapu (sacred) form of family and personal identification. If you absolutely love the Maori style designs they suggest you chose a Kirituhi, which is a form of pattern art that looks like Ta Moko but doesn’t make any reference to Maori symbolism. It literally means ‘skin art’.

Traditionally it took months of planning and approval from the elders and other family members in order to be worthy of getting a moko in the first place. Usually those with high ranks such as Chiefs were the only ones who could afford or be worthy of adorning them. Women traditionally only had their lips, around the chin and sometimes their nostrils tattooed which was seen as the epitome of Maori female beauty, whereas men were allowed full facial moko. Now many men decide to do other parts of their bodies excluding their face, you have to be pretty brave to sport a full facial tattoo these days! I couldn’t decide which video to include so I have included two which I though were very interesting and worth watching! Enjoy ~

More on Maori Style Tattoos…


2 thoughts on “History of a Tattoo ~ Maori Style

  1. I couldn’t finish watching the last video. OUCH!
    I have two tattoos and have NO desire to get anymore. I’m done.
    I have been to New Zealand and love the Maori people (I’m even related to one) and their traditions but I would hate to have to have a Moko done in the old traditional way…with a chisel. I feel a little faint after seeing that.

  2. Hey! Now I know the origin of the word Moko! The guy who etched our Tara symbol into the lip shell pendants has a company called Moko Branding. http://www.mokobranding.com if you want to check it out.

    He does a lot of work personalizing, or tattooing, laptops so you should take a look. I always wondered how the name came about!

    Thanks Tracy. Yeah, I’m happy with my two little tats (I said TATS ) but one day I might elaborate on one of them. I know I wouldn’t ever do the chisel route!

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