Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Maori Tattooing

"Moko" the art of Maori Tattoos

-According to archaeological evidence, tattooing came to New Zealand from eastern Polynesian culture.
-The head was considered the most sacred part of the body.
-All high ranking Maori were tattooed, and those who went without tattoos were seen as persons of no social status.
-Tattooing commenced at puberty, accompanied by many rites & rituals.
-The tattoos made the warriors more attractive to women as well as marking important events in a persons life.
-The full faced tattoo was very time consuming and a good tattoo craftsman would carefully study the persons bone structure before commencing his art. 
-The tattoo instrument was a bone chisel, either with a serrated or an extremely sharp straight edge.
-The first stage was commenced with graving of deep cuts into the skin, next a chisel was dipped into a sooty type pigment such as burnt Kaura gum or burnt vegetable caterpillars and then tapped into the skin.
-It was extremely long and painful.
-Often leaves from the native Karaka trees were placed over the swollen tattoo cuts to hasten the healing process.
-During the tattooing process , flute music & chant poems were performed to help soothe the pain.

-Although the tattoos were mainly facial, the north Auckland worriers included swirling double spirals on both buttocks, often leading down their legs until the knee.
-The women were not as extensively tattooed as the men.
-Their upper lips were outlined, usually dark blue.
-The nostrils were also very finely incised  & the chin Moko was always the most popular and continued to be practised even in the 1970's.

-The Moko is similar to an identity card.
-For men it showed their status and their ferocity or vertility.

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 (but not always, depending on the tribe) the father's side, while the right hand side indicates the mother's ancestry. Descent was a foremost requirement before a Moko could be undertaken.
If one side of a person's ancestry was not of rank, that side of the face would have no Moko design. Likewise if, in the centre forehead area there is no Moko design, this means the wearer either has no rank, or has not inherited rank.

1 comment:

  1. Wow what a cool read.

    I had recently got a Maori design from the well known Maori artist and tattoo designer Tiki OBrien who lives in New Zealand. Just google his name.

    I am tolled he is the last of his kind schooled in the ancient knowledge behind Ta Moko.

    Because the old people took him away as a child to teach him the stories and meanings to the symbols he was never allowed to practice the artform.

    But continues to design which is why I got a design created from him.One interesting thing, he tolled me was about a particular common symbol called the Mangopare.

    While it is believed to be a symbol of the hammer
    head shark. Tiki says this meaning was given to the masses But In Maori art, there is a meaning behind a meaning all ways two fold like Rangi and Papa, matter and anti matter, Yin and Yang.

    Any way according to Tiki he said the symbol actually depicted the form of the Whai or sting ray. This meaning befitted a warrior of high rank because of the beauty, stealth, sting and fighting spirit.

    while the hammer head shark was seen as a scavenger of the seas. I was surprised when I would ask some Maori tattoo artists who didnt know this.

    What was more surprising was when tiki mentions how Mans spiritual and esoteric journey with this particular fish started with Te Ika a Maui The fish of Maui and that Maori were more connected to this specie of fish than we think.

    According to Maori legend describes how Maui fish up North Island, part of New Zealand which looks not like a
    hammer head shark, not a whale, but a stingray.

    I knew you could not get this kind of information from any maori or tatto artist.

    Any way I thought there maybe some people who would be interested in knowing this information.