The Māori tattoo, or Tā moko, is a time-honoured form of body art deeply rooted in the Māori cultural heritage. This intricate and symbolic method of skin marking conveys individual identity, genealogy, social standing, and mana.
The designs used in tā moko are based on ancient Māori patterns and motifs, a symbolic language with meanings that connect a person to their tribal roots. Tā moko designs are unique to each tribe, group, and individual and can include koru spirals, lines, and interlocking patterns, representing a rich source of natural elements and meanings.
Both men and women wore tā moko. Practitioners continue today using the traditional uhi tapping method of bone tools, where the skin is indelibly etched with designs unique to each person. Not to forget the much older Tā moko practise of haehae, whereby the practitioner would make tears into the skin, wiping down with muka the blood that flowed out from the wound, then filling in with a special mixed paste to add in the colouring, stop the bleeding and to help with the healing process.
All this is to produce patterns that appear to have been carved directly into the skin, producing deep groves and bevels similar to those of Māori carving seen today. In modern times, Tā moko has experienced a resurgence using both the traditional uhi and ink gun method as a means of connecting with one's Māori heritage and culture.
This traditional practice serves as a symbol of cultural identity, self-expression, and art that has attracted local and worldwide attention by non-Māori wearers of kirituhi (Māori-inspired skin art) Although the significance of traditional designs and meanings is still honoured, contemporary artists have added new styles and designs that reflect the changing world. As Māori artists, it is incumbent upon us to help educate the public so they can appreciate the beauty that is Māori art.
Below are just a sample of the thousands of Māori designs I have created
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