Maori tattoos are the distinctive tattoos that came from the Maori people of New Zealand. They are an important part of Maori history and culture.
It’s hard to forget the thrill and awe the first time you see a Maori tattoo, or, as they are known among the people who created them, ta moko. These tattoos can cover the entire face in swirls and angles, though some are significantly smaller, and they are distinguished by their symmetry, and their dramatic black lines.
Historically, the Maori considered their tattoos to be signs of status. People who lacked these tattoos were typically people of low status. The tattoos were etched into the skin using chisels made of bone, and those who could create these tattoos were considered sacred.
Today, these tattoos have experienced a resurgence among the Maori. After colonialist pressures and invasion, many modern Maori have taken up the process once again, using it as a way of recliaming their cultural identity.
It is considered extremely controversial for someone who does not identify as Maori to wear a historical Maori tattoo, as these tattoos are deeply associated with a distinct culture and family system. However, for non-Maori who wish to enjoy these designs, there are the kirthui designs, produced by Maori artists to be in the same style. Instead of connotating status, these tattoos are simply meant to be beautiful and to be enjoyed.