Why Did The Maori Tattoo Their Heads?

Why Did The Maori Tattoo Their Heads
Moko [ edit ] – Moko facial tattoos were traditional in Māori culture until about the mid 19th century when their use began to disappear, although there has been something of a revival from the late 20th century. In pre-European Māori culture they denoted high social status.

  1. There were generally only men that had full facial moko, though high-ranked women often had moko on their lips and chins;
  2. [1] : 1  Moko tattoos served as identifying connection between an individual and their ancestors;

[2] Moko marked rites of passage for people of chiefly rank, as well as significant events in their lives. Each moko was unique and contained information about the person’s rank, tribe, lineage, occupation and exploits. Moko were expensive to obtain and elaborate moko were usually limited to chiefs and high-ranked warriors. [1] : 1–3  .

Why did the Maori tattoo?

Ta Moko – To the Maori, tattooing is linked to mana or a sense of pride and prestige. The head is considered to be the most sacred part of the body, so ta moko was reserved for the face only and for Maori of high social status. Facial moko for Maori women was a chin tattoo or moko kauae. Portrait of a Young Maori Woman with Moko Google Art Project (Public Domain) The inking process was steeped in ritual and the designs themselves were considered highly sacred. The tattoo craftsman or tohunga ta moko was a respected specialist in a given iwi (tribe) and he was considered tapu (sacred and revered). Interestingly, Captain James Cook was also responsible for introducing the word “taboo” into the English language, which he heard as tapu during his 1771 CE visit to Tahiti.

The upper lips were also outlined, using a dark blue pigment, and the nostrils were incised. The tikanga (custom, values, protocol) behind moko kauae was that only kuia (elderly women) would receive them, but today in New Zealand, you will see many Maori women wearing moko kauae.

moko is the most common term for all forms of Maori tattooing. Most tohunga ta moko were men and the tattooing process, which itself was tapu , began at puberty as a rite of passage and would continue throughout life to mark important events and ancestral history.

A moko was an identity card that chronicled a person’s ancestral and life history, as well as their tribal affiliation. It indicated the whakapapa or line of ancestors a person descended from and the land to which they were connected.

A moko also carried values such as loyalty and commitment from the past to those in the future. Whakapapa was indicated on each side of the face with the left side being the father’s ancestry and the right side being the mother’s – although which side of the face was tattooed depended on iwi. Tāwhiao – Second King of the Māori Unknown (Public Domain) A warrior of the Urewera and Ngai-Tama tribes described moko in this way: You may lose your most valuable property through misfortune in various ways. your house, your weaponry, your spouse, and other treasures. You may be robbed of all that you cherish. But of your moko, you cannot be deprived, except by death. It will be your ornament and your companion until your final day. Netana Whakaari of Waimana, 1921 CE.

Why do Maoris tattoo their chin?

For New Zealand Māori women, the moko kauae, or traditional female chin tattoo, is considered a physical manifestation of their true identity. It is believed every Māori woman wears a moko on the inside, close to their heart; when they are ready, the tattoo artist simply brings it out to the surface.

  1. Last month, Nanaia Mahuta became the first member of parliament in the world to wear a moko kauae;
  2. The 46-year-old made history not only because of her decision to wear her Māori identity on her face in a political arena, but as part of the resurgence in Māori women receiving the traditional ink;

It’s been an interesting thing. People look at you differently. “There were a number of milestones in my life, and it felt right to mark them in a way that is a positive statement about my identity,” Nanaia (below) tells Broadly. “Who I am, where I come from, and the contribution I want to continue to make.

  1. When I got it done, I felt incredibly calm;
  2. I felt like it had always been there;
  3. ” Nanaia’s moko marked the anniversary of her father’s death, and the designs incorporate the traditional carving patterns of her tribe, Ngāti Maniapoto;

But she also received the moko to inspire her three-year-old daughter. “As a young Māori woman I want my daughter to know that everything is at her fingertips; she just needs to reach forward and grab it. ” Nanaia Mahuta. Photo by Kina Sai Nanaia’s first time in parliament wearing the moko was emotional. “There was a huge amount of pride from other Māori women,” she recalls. “It’s been an interesting thing. People look at you differently. It’s a cultural marker, and it says clearly when I’m sitting round a table that I do represent a certain way of thinking.

” Māori facial and body tattooing is known as Tā moko. An ancient art form, its origin lies in West Polynesia. The intricate designs were chiseled into the skin using a tool called an uhi; ink was then smudged into the carved lines.

Tā moko represents the wearer’s family heritage and social status—it is believed that the receiver visits a spiritual realm where they encounter their ancestors, returning as a new person. For Māori women, as historian Michael King notes in his seminal book Moko , the moko was a rite of passage, marking the passage between girl and adulthood. Maori woman c. 1890. Photo courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries But from 1840, with the influx of English settlers , Māori were pushed from their lands and assimilation began. Colonial laws were passed banning what are known as tohunga , or Māori experts, and children were caned for speaking Māori at school.

By the 1970s, the moko had all but died out. Only a few female elders carried it, and elsewhere facial tattoos had negative connotations; adopted by disaffected urban Māori, they became associated with gangs and crime.

Things started to change in the 1980s, with a push to revive Māori language and culture, and in recent years there has been a revival in the ancient practice among both elders and young Māori women. Tā moko artist Pip Hartley, 33, is one of a new generation of Māori who are carrying the art form forward.

When she was 18 she started traveling to remote regions of the country to learn the ancient art, before opening her Auckland tattoo studio, Karanga Ink , this year. The moko process is intensely personal, Pip tells Broadly.

“I prefer to draw straight onto the person, because it’s an exchange of wairua, or energy. It’s working with the contours of their body and translating their story, and for a lot of people it’s a transformative experience. Every time they see it, it’s a reminder of what they’ve achieved, and that their tupuna [ancestors] have their back.

” Pip Hartley using her uhi, the traditional ta moko tool. Video courtesy of Karanga Ink When a woman is ready to receive her moko kauae, there is an internal calling, Pip says. “It’s definitely them representing their culture and making a commitment to it, and having a closer connection to their ancestors.

There are people who might look at it with one eyebrow up, not understanding it, but I think that is something these wahine [women] are ready for—to feel confident within themselves. I can’t wait to get mine. ” For weaver Jude Hoani, receiving her moko last year was about defining who she is.

  1. “I’ve got one of those faces that can fit in many cultures,” she tells Broadly, “and for me it was about making a statement about who I am in relation to this country;
  2. I’d been thinking about it for the past 20 years;
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” I’d been thinking about it for the past 20 years. Jude (below) first broached the subject with her late husband. “He said, ‘I don’t want you to have it done. ‘ I said ‘Well, it’s not your business, and you’re not part of the decision-making process at all, and you need to understand that.

” Her cousin, renowned tā moko artist Gordon Toi, would tease Jude, telling her: “I’ve got a seat for you on my table. ” When Jude’s older brother died of kidney failure, her decision was made. “We were very, very close.

Around that time, Gordon just sort of reappeared in my life, and I said, ‘Well, I’m ready to get on your table. ‘ ” Jude Hoani. Photograph by Stephen Langdon Jude says the actual tattooing, which took half an hour using a regular tattoo gun, wasn’t painful. “It was more uncomfortable. A quarter of orange in the mouth to bite on, and we were done. ” The design on her chin is a stylised ruru, or owl.

According to Māori tradition, the ruru is the kaitiaki (guardian) of the chin. Her moko also has elements of a carving design particular to her tribe, Ngāpuhi. Since receiving her moko, Jude says she feels more visible.

“A lot of people in my town who had never spoken to me started talking to me. They actually see me, they look at me, they look at my face, they look into my eyes. ” Now that I have this moko, I’m not invisible. “I was speaking to a Pākehā [white New Zealander] friend of mine the other day who is in her seventies,” Jude adds.

“She was telling me she likes going into the city less and less because when she stands at a counter she gets ignored. She said: ‘I’m sure it’s because of my age. ‘ Now that I have this moko, that doesn’t happen to me.

I’m not invisible. ” For More Stories Like This, Sign Up for Our Newsletter Forty-eight year old Benita Tahuri (below) spent more than half her life thinking about getting her moko, a time that was about average for the women Broadly spoke to. “I always knew inside I wanted one, and after going through a lot of life changes and challenges and much contemplation, I knew it was the right thing for me to do,” she says. ” Benita Tahuri. Photo by Stephen Langdon “There’s a lot of thinking that not anyone can wear one, that you’ve got to earn it,” Benita explains. “But my belief is that if you’re Māori, this is your birthright. No-one can stop you if you think it’s right for you. It’s something that was normal, and became not normal.

“For me it spoke of healing, reflection, and empowerment and identity. It wasn’t any conscious kind of thought—the physical manifestation of moko kauae is the end of a journey. We’ve had to struggle to get back so many things, so we shouldn’t put up barriers.

” Benita is of the Ngāti Kahungunu and Tūhoe tribes. She grew up in the small town of Wairoa, in New Zealand’s North Island. The local pub had an unspoken rule: the back bar was for Māori, and the front bar for Pākehā [whites]. No-one spoke Māori in public.

She moved to the city and sent her children to Māori immersion schools, and now her daughters Honey (23) and Anahera (25) have their own moko. Read more: The Enduring Friendship of Black Twin Sisters, in Photos “I wanted [the moko] to be part of what was normal for them,” their mother explains.

“For me it was more of a process, but for them it was just what they did. And that’s when it’s special. You know, you can’t just put it away, like if you have a tattoo you wear a shirt and it’s covered. It’s there for life. It’s a commitment to yourself and your identity. ‘ ” Benita with her daughters Honey and Anahera. Photo by Stephen Langdon As the needle pierced Drina Paratene’s skin, she felt nothing but peace. “I had been mentally preparing myself,” says the 52-year-old (pictured below). “We said karakia [prayers] before we started. I was expecting quite a high level of pain, and I had none at all.

“It’s saying ‘I stand in who I am, and this is who I am. ” Lying on the floor at home, Drina received her moko from artist Pip Hartley. Pip used the traditional tool, the uhi, which in pre-colonial times was a chisel made of bone, dipped into pigment and then used to cut the skin.

Pip uses a needle in her uhi, hand-tapping the ink into the skin in the traditional technique. Watch now: Australian Rapper Tkay Maidza is Ready to Take Over the World “I wanted her to use [the uhi] because it connects us to our ancestors and their experiences,” says Drina, a Māori language teacher.

“I thought ‘Okay, it’s probably going to get worse than this,’ but I lay there for six hours and there was no pain at all. ” Drina was part of the Kōhanga Reo political movement , which pushed to revive Māori language in the early 80s.

“I wanted to be part of the collective group of women who are wearing moko kauae to revitalise this tikanga [custom], so we could normalise it in our society,” she says. Drina’s moko symbolises the three values she believes are essential to a meaningful life: The first is tika, or honesty and integrity; the second is pono, or belief in a higher spiritual order; and the third is aroha, meaning love. ” Drina Paratene. Photo by Stephen Langdon.

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What did the Maori moko tattoo represent?

It was like a resumé. It also served as a reminder to people about their responsibility in life. It was a huge honour for people to have Ta Moko. Ta Moko was worn by both men and women. It was applied to the face and buttocks of men, and to the chin, lips and shoulders of women.

Depending on their ranking, they may also have Ta Moko on their face. Occasionally women would put small markings over their faces or shoulders as a sign that someone close to them had died. There were no set patterns to the Ta Moko and the meaning of the Ta Moko was dependent on its placement on the face.

The left side of the face related to the father’s history and the right side to the mother’s history.

Do Maori have face tattoos?

Why Did The Maori Tattoo Their Heads Image source, evolvedleadership. com. au Image caption, Sally Anderson’s headshot from her life coaching business Facial tattoos have been a part of Maori culture for centuries, a sacred marker of the wearer’s genealogy and heritage. But one woman’s striking chin design – or moko – has generated huge debate in New Zealand, because she is white, with no Maori heritage.

Why do Māori tattoo their faces?

Traditionally, men received Mataora on their face – as a symbol of nobility. As māori believe the head is the most sacred part of the body, facial tattoos have special significance. Moko kauae – are received by women on their lips and chin.

What is a Māori tattoo called?

Tā moko is the permanent marking or ‘tattoo’ as traditionally practised by Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.

Do Maori tattoo their lips?

The Maori women of New Zealand find tattooing their lips and chins beautiful. The more ink the better. An all blue lip is considered the most beautiful. The Maori women of New Zealand find tattooing their lips and chins beautiful.

What does 3 lines tattoo on chin mean?

Many Indigenous tribes around the world have distinctive traditional facial tattoos—the Māori have Tā Moko, the Inuit have Kakiniit—but Gwich’in tattoos often appear as three distinctive lines on the chin, as well as lines on the cheeks or corners of the eye.

Is it cultural appropriation to get a Māori tattoo?

Getting to know the history of specific tattoos is essential in one’s research for the perfect tattoo design. The origin of a tattoo, its cultural and historic background, as well as meaning can truly affect one’s decision, especially when it comes to cultural appropriation and similar issues regarding cultural tattoos.

  1. Maori tattoos are some of the most popular tattoos;
  2. However, many aren’t even aware that the tattoos they’re getting belong to a culture and tradition, and unaware of such important information, commit cultural appropriation;

Other, despite knowing about Maori tattoos, still get the cultural design and claim ownership, which is truly minimizing the Maori culture and tradition. Luckily, an increasing number of people are getting more and more education about different tattoo cultures as well as the origin of specific, traditional tattoo designs.

Is Moana a Māori?

Why Did The Maori Tattoo Their Heads A new translation of the Disney film Moana has been released in New Zealand. The film was translated by New Zealand native who worked on the original English-language version, Taiki Waititi, and his sister Tweedie Waititi. The film screened for free at 30 theaters around New Zealand in conjunction with the annual Māori language week.

  • All showings of the film were entirely in Māori without English subtitles;
  • The film centers around a Polynesian princess named Moana, who travels the sea on an adventure to help bring peace to her homeland;

The film borrowed many Māori mythologies in the narrative and sparked debate about cultural sensitivity. By showing the film in the native language of the people being represented in the film, it extends their own narrative to themselves, rather than solely an English-speaking audience.

For what two reasons were moko applied to a person?

Significance of Moko and Mokomokai in Maori Culture – Maori moko are tattoos that are unique in appearance, design, and significance. There were two methods involved in the creation of moko : in one the flesh was carved away and the pigment placed inside the grooves, resulting deep, dark lines.

The second method was similar to most of Polynesia with the pigment inserted underneath the skin with a sharp-toothed comb (Gell 1993: 246-7). The carving method was limited to the facial moko while the rest of the body was tattooed in the more conventional method.

The men were tattooed on the face, the backside, thigh and lower torso. The women were also tattooed on the body, but the facial design was usually limited to the lips and chin. However, there are examples in history and in traditional carving in which important women had full-face moko (Starzecka 1996:47).

These women were of equal or higher rank than the male chiefs of their generation and their full-face moko was representative of that status (Simmon 1999:127). They were symbolically men and usually never married.

” Moko sites and design, as well as extent, varied between men and women, though in both sexes it marked rites of passage and significant events in one’s life” (Starzecka 1996: 40). For women of chiefly rank, tattooing was an important ceremony that accompanied puberty and marked the entry into womanhood (Lewis 1982: 60).

The tattooing ceremony was done individually, not as a group ceremony or initiation (Gell 1993: 244). Ta moko , the art of tattoo, was much more than mere body decoration; it was intricately connected to the social, political, and religious life of the Maori.

The moko contained information about a person’s lineage, tribe, occupation, rank, and exploits. They were unique to each individual and told about their life and history (Blackburn 1999:15, Simmon 1999: 50). Some authors suggest that early 19th century Maori society was highly stratified with eight different levels of hierarchy; these levels were indicated through the moko designs (Simmon 1999: 129-130).

  1. Others argue that the social structure was less rigid structure and had fewer social strata but in both cases, moko , or lack thereof, was an important signal of position in the sociopolitical structure (Gell 1993:240-1;

) Disregarding all other reasons, obtaining a moko was expensive and the heavy financial constraint prohibited all but the chiefs and warriors from commissioning an elaborate moko (Gell 1993: 246). The moko also showed mana , or divine personal power and status of an individual (Starzeck 1996: 61).

The moko not only indicated mana but contained mana itself. The mana of the moko was such that, later, when slaves were tattooed so that their heads could be traded, they were given tattoos whose patterns were meaningless.

If they were given correct moko , the virtue of the moko would render them tapu , and they could not be killed (Simmon 1999:140). Each moko was completely unique to that individual (Robley 1998: 15, 91). Maori chiefs knew each line of their moko and could draw them from memory.

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They were often used as marks of identification and were used to sign treaties, land grants, and deeds during the period of European colonization (Gilbert 2000:67, Robley 1998:11). More importantly, the moko served not only as a means of identification of an individual, but through the moko , an individual “achieved identification with the ancestors through donning an ancestral (tattooed) mask” (Gell 1993:251).

The moko symbolically connected an individual to his ancestors and lineage. Not only the tattoos, but also the art of tattooing- ta moko , was very sacred and surrounded by strict tapu and protocol. The most prominent tale of the origin of ta moko involves a mortal, Mataoro, who is married to the daughter on the chief of the underworld.

  1. One day he beats his wife and she returns to her father’s realm;
  2. Mataora journeys to the underworld to regain his wife, and while there learns the art of ta moko from his father-in-law (Starzecka 1996: 35, Neich 1994:21, Gell 1993:254-259);

This was a sign of reconciliation between divinity and man. Ta moko was a gift from the gods, and as such, was considered sacred. On a more practical level, the moko made Mataoro worthy of marrying above his status and serves as a reminder to avoid evil action (the beating of his wife) (Gell 1993:255).

Tattoo experts were trained in special schools and the practice was controlled and surrounded by numerous tapu (Neich 1994:20). A tattoo expert was a position of respect and prestige (Hiroa 1982:299, Robley 1998:100).

During the tattooing process, the individual receiving the tattoo was subject to a number of strict rules due to the sacredness and importance of the ritual. This tapu came from the bleeding that necessarily accompanied the ritual (Robley 1998:62). The ritual was done out of doors in a temporary shelter built for that purpose (Best 1934: 223).

The person receiving the moko could not speak, feed himself, or be touched by anyone else. He was also limited in the kind of vessels he could eat from and the food he could eat (Robley 1998:58-59). An elaborate carved funnel was used to feed the person being tattooed so that they could eat without touching any contaminated substance (Starzecka 1996: 40).

After the procedure was complete, the person who received the tattoo abstained from sex and washing for several days until the tattoo began to heal (Blackburn 1999:13,15). At the end of the ceremony a collective ritual was held “in order to ‘recompense’ ( utu ) for the bloodletting (i.

degradation) of their chief, a slave or captive would be killed and the chief’s supporters would be given a feast (at the chief’s expense)” (Gell 1993:248). A similar festival was held at the tattooing of chief’s eldest daughter (Gell 1993:246).

All of these tapu indicate the importance of tattooing and its cultural significance. Often the tattooed heads of the deceased were dried and smoked in order to preserve them from decay. These dried heads are the mokomokai. The process of drying the heads was also accompanied by tapu.

The people performing the ceremony and the relatives of the deceased were not allowed to touch food until the process was complete (Robley 1998:146). The mokomokai were an integral part of Maori society.

They served as personal remembrances of the deceased and reminded the family of his good character and leadership (Robley 1998:134). The Maori took heads as trophies during war, and heads were embalmed and preserved during peace as well as war. This honor was usually reserved for persons of importance and their loved ones, including women and children.

The heads remained with the families of the deceased, who kept them in ornately carved boxes. They were protected by strict taboos and brought out only during sacred ceremonies. (Gilbert 200:67) The children and widows of the deceased used the head to remind them of the deceased, but also to signify that to some extent the presence of the departed chief was still a part of tribal and family affairs.

This kind of close kinship and identification with ancestors is an important part of Polynesian society (Gell 1993:251-252). The heads of slain enemy chiefs were also kept and played an important role in the rituals and ceremonies relating to war and peace.

They were trophies of war and were displayed on posts to testify of the success of the tribe’s warriors (Robley 1998: 136). These heads of enemy chiefs were treated with great disrespect (Lewis 1982: 93).

However, these captured mokomokai were also important in the rituals of peace negotiations. When a side was conquered, it surrendered the heads it had captured and the return of the heads signified that the grievances had been settled (Robley 1998: 134-5).

  1. In other circumstances, heads would be traded between both sides to peacefully end intertribal wars and disputes;
  2. Because of their essential role in negotiation of peace they were very valuable and would never be traded;

Because without returning the mokomokai of the chiefs, peace could not be achieved (Robley 1998: 138)..

Why do Māori carve?

Spiritual Significance – As Maori people were extremely religious and spiritual, they performed many rituals, of which required significant objects. These often acted as vessels for the gods or ancestors where they may take up residence for a time. These objects were always ornately and distinctly carved to elevate the importance of the object.

In Maori history, carving itself was also a spiritual act surrounded in tapu. The wood chips carved and the tools used were all considered tapu, and thus were put in high regard. Same also goes for the carvers who would craft their intricate designs into wood, stone and the sacred, pounamu.

They were highly regarded people within the tribe. This concept first starts with the fact that anything natural has direct ties to atua, the gods. Wood came from Tane, the god of the forest and the trees were his children. Pounamu was said to be the children of Poutini, the taniwha who was the guardian of the god Ngahue. Why Did The Maori Tattoo Their Heads.

What do Māori symbols mean?

Maori symbols are shared across many New Zealand art forms (tattoo art and pounamu carving especially) and have symbolism or meaning that stems from their original use hundreds of years ago: to visually represent parts of the culture, belief system, and history of Maori.

  • The symbols represent the future and past;
  • Some reference stories of desire and memory, of strength, history and commitment, of loyalty, relationships, and they carry values from the past to those in the future;

When carved in pounamu , tattooed on the skin, or hung on the wall today, you are displaying part of who you are, where you have come from, and whats important to you.