Maori Tattoo Art Significance – Tribal Tattoo Designs
Maori tattoo designs and amongst those tribal tattoos, the Celtic tattoo has proven to be quite popular as well, but tattoo Maori designs are proving to be more and more popular as time goes on due to importance and significance of deep symbolic meaning & message of ancestral culture life story.
Tribal tattoos and their traditional rituals hail from many different cultures throughout the world. Dating back centuries, tribal tattooing can signify one’s rank, wealth, symbolism and heritage. In the entire world, there is no other tattoo society that can compare to that of the ancient & tribal Maori culture. When we look back at the ancient Maoris, there may be no other culture with as much symbolic history toward tattooing. Tattooing art in the Maori culture was a very important & significant process that involved both men and women in the tribe.These tattoos weren’t for body art or beautification. Every single pattern tattooed on the Maori would tell a story and hold deep symbolic meaning. These tattoos were their cultural life’s story. While modern tattoo machines make the art of inking tribal designs an easier and less painful quest, tribal tattooing will never bear the same meaning or significance without the trained hand of a knowledgeable artist who understands both the culture and symbolism of the tribe.
History of Maori Tribal Tattoos
Traditional Maori Tattoos were made using bone chisels, in a process known in the Maori language as Ta Moko. The Maori words Ta Moko mean: ‘to strike’ or ‘to tap’. The traditional Maori tattoos differed from other tattoo styles in that they were carved into the skin with bone chisels rather than punctured with needles. A finished tattoo is known simply as Moko. Maori tattoos usually covered the face, buttocks and legs of Maori men. Maori women usually wore tattoos on the chin and lips and occasionally on the back of the neck. Acquiring a Maori tattoo could be long and painful process which had great ritual significance.
According to Maori legend, Ta moko originally came from the Underworld. A young warrior called Mataora fell in love with Niwareka, the princess of the underworld. She agreed to marry him and return to the human world. However, Mataora soon mistreated her and Niwareka went back to her fathers kingdom. Sick with grief, and with his face paint smudged, Mataora went down to the underworld to try and win her back. He succeeded and the King of the Underworld also taught him the art of Ta Moko.
Instead of using needles to apply the Maori tattoos to the skin, the Maori people used knives and chisels called uhi. The ink was applied by making incisions with the uhi. Traditionally, these uhi were made from Albatross bone. Two kinds of tattoo ink were used. The tattoo ink for the body was made from an organism common to New Zealand that is half vegetable and half caterpillar. The caterpillar has become infected with a fungus which starts growing on it’s head.
Value & Significance of Maori Tribal Tattoo Design Art
While most tattoos are chosen due to their deeper meanings and to the significance that they have to the wearer, there are many tattoos that are worn only for their aesthetic values.The Maori tattoos hold much significance in their culture and it is important that you respect their tattoos and are careful when you choose Maori tattoo designs of your own or else you will insult them. While tattooing has certainly changed over the years, the Maori importance to their tattoo symbolism still holds strong. Like with other cultural tattoos such as Celtic tattoos andtribal tattoos, it is important to understand research and understand the history and true significance of your tattoo so that you can respect it. With the Maori tattoos, it is that much more important to understand the meaning behind the markings. The Maori’s do not get tattoos for purely aesthetic value.
Ta moko is a core component of Maori culture and an outward expression of commitment and respect. In the past two decades there has been a significant resurgence in the practice of ta moko as a sign of cultural identity. Ta moko traditional Maori tattooing, often on the face – is ataonga (treasure) to Maori for which the purpose and applications are sacred. Every moko contains ancestral / tribal messages specific to the wearer. These messages tell the story of the wearer’s family and tribal affiliations, and their place in these social structures. A moko’s message would also contain the wearer’s ‘value’ by way of their genealogy, and their knowledge and standing in their social level. Ta moko is performed by a tohunga ta moko (tattoo expert) and the practice is considered atapu (sacred) ritual. The design of each moko is unique to the wearer and conveys information about the wearer, such as their genealogy, tribal affiliations, status, and achievements. It is important to distinguish moko from kiri tuhi, tattoos that are not regarded as having the cultural significance attributed to moko.