Māori Tā moko tattoo is a traditional and highly significant form of body art practiced by the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand. Tā moko was traditionally undertaken with chisels (uhi). Today, modern tattoo guns are more commonly used.
Key aspects of the art of Māori Tā moko include:
1. Cultural Significance: Tā moko is deeply rooted in Māori culture and carries immense cultural and spiritual significance. It tells the story of a person’s ancestry, lineage, social status, and life experiences. It serves as a visual representation of Māori identity, whakapapa (genealogy) and connection to / appreciation of indigenous culture.
2. Individualized Designs: Each Tā moko design is unique to the individual it adorns. The patterns and motifs used commonly represent a person’s life journey, achievements, and relationships. These designs are created in collaboration with a tohunga Tā moko (master tattoo artist) and the person receiving the tattoo.
3. Placement on the Body: Tā moko was traditionally typically applied to the face, buttocks, and thighs. The placement and design vary based on the person’s gender, status, and other cultural factors. Facial moko, in particular, is a powerful symbol of one’s identity. Today Tā moko is applied to many parts of the body.
4. Symbolic Elements: Tā moko designs often incorporate traditional Māori symbols and patterns, such as koru (spirals representing growth and new life), manaia (guardian spirits), and kowhaiwhai (decorative scrollwork). These elements are combined to convey intricate narratives.
5. Ritual and Ceremony: Tā moko is not merely a physical process but a spiritual and ceremonial one. The recipient undergoes a series of rituals before and after the tattooing, and the process is increasingly considered as a rite of passage. There has been a massive resurgence of interest in the art form.
6. Preservation of Culture: Despite the challenges of colonization and Westernization, Māori communities have worked diligently to preserve and revitalize the practice of Tā moko . Today, many Māori and non-Māori tattoo artists continue to practice and respect this unique art form.
Māori Tā moko tattoos serve as a living connection to the rich cultural heritage of the Māori people and a testament to their enduring traditions and identity. It remains an art form deeply respected and cherished within the Māori community and admired globally for its intricate beauty and cultural significance. Many other indigenous people and non-Māori have received Tā moko and there is strong and growing international interest and demand for this unique indigenous art form.
Tuia ki te rangi (Bind the heavens)
Tuia ki te whenua (Bind the lands)
Tuia ki the moana (Bind the waters)
Tuia ki te ira tangata (Bind the people)