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Tattoo Designs


The Maori tattoo designs were inspired by nature and date back to many centuries ago. The artistic Maori tattoo designs were truly based on what was around them and in many instances all that found interaction with the traditional culture of the Maori. The tattoos embraced symbols, curves and spirals to create such a magnificent piece of art that was more inclined to the abstract forms. The process of tattooing was called ta moko while the finished tattoo was called moko. Traditionally, the Maori would permanently decorate their faces with these amazing designs by chiseling the designs into their faces. This is the marked difference in the tribal tattoo from the modern day tattoo that only punctures the skin. The bone chisels used for tattooing have been in archaeological sites.

The Maori tattoo designs have become very popular but they have lost the traditional and tribal meaning that they held for the indigenous Maori. This is because the original Maori tattoos were only made on the members of the community for the particular reasons such as special occasions and festivals. This can be attributed to the different Maori tattoo design meanings. To the Maori considered the head as the most sacred part of the body. Additionally, it was a very visible part. The Maori tattoos were initiated at adolescence and as per tradition, they were along with other rites and rituals. The Maori tattoos were done to make warriors attractive to women in respect to their conquest at war and they were used to mark rites of passage and mark the important life events for the individual. The full facial tattoo was only performed by a skilled tattoo artist called the tohunga-ta-oko. Before the tattoo was done, the craftsman would study the shape of the face and the bone structure to inform his strokes. Tradition demanded that abstinence from eating and intimacy be observed so that the face would heal faster without infection. Food was given in liquid form via a funnel. The tattooing process was very painful as well as the healing process. During the tattooing ceremony poems and music were performed with accompaniment of flutes to soothe the pain. Leaves of the karaka tree were used to speed up healing of the tattoo wounds.

The whole facial tattoo gave the Maori tattoo designs meanings and was a form of identity showing ancestry, social status and rank, virility and ferocity. The male facial tattoo had eight different components each denoting special features in the life of the wearer of the tattoo. Each section of the tattoo was associated with an area of the face. The central forehead called the ngakaipikirau indicated rank. The area around the eyebrows indicated position. The temple areas called uma showed first and second marriages. The jaw area showed birth status and was called taitoto. Other areas were the nose and eye areas called the uirere, araea under the nose called the raurau, the cheek area taiohou and the chin called the wairua.

Lack of any Maori tattoo design on either of the sections was indicative of many things in traditional Maori culture. For example, lack of a tattoo on the forehead was pinpointing to lack of inherited or earned rank. Ancestry was indicated on both sides of the face, with the right for the maternal ancestry whereas the left for paternal ancestry.

Maori tattoo designs have become very popular but not the tribal tattoos. The tattoos are made on almost any body part particularly the upper arm, shoulders and the torso. The designs are liked because of the curves, geometric shapes and spirals.


Maori facial tattoo The MOKO is a traditional maori facial tattoo.

Traditionally the lines were engraved into the skin, the designs and patterns dependant on tribal affiliation, whakapapa (lineage), and individual rank.
Maori Tattoo Designs
Maori tattoos combined with celtic tattoo designs are becoming increasingly popular, a choice of those wanting to express or reflect their mixed heritage - the combination of the two art styles compliment each other.
       Nowadays, the traditional Maori tribe tattooing or ta moko is all but extinct, but Maori tattoos may be making a comeback. Though Maori culture is undergoing a revival, an interruption occurred after the coming of European settlers, during which tattooing lost much of its significance.
Maori Tattoo Designs
Modern Maori tattoos are usually found on the body rather than the face, and, of course, modern tattooing methods are used – but the traditional ta moko inspired designs have a universal and timeless appeal.
New Zealand Tattoo Designs
New Zealand Tattoo Design, where you can buy and download tattoo designs direct from our website, and the best thing is, it's instant! You can download your tattoo design as soon as your credit card payment is accepted.

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