Maori tattoo art and traditional Maori tattoos are so incredibly unique; these particular traditional maori tattoos have their own identity and meaning among the Polynesian culture. Maori is a tribe that came from Polynesia to New Zealand. The word Maori is defined in the dictionary as to be “ordinary”, “natural” or of the “normal”. These Maori tattoos are anything but normal or ordinary. In fact, they hold such meaning and tradition that it is thought among the Maori people to be insulting to have a Maori tribal tattoo of this nature, outside of the Maori families or tribes.
Maori tattoo art is beautiful, bold and painful! The Maori tattoos consist of multiple designs placed over the entire body. They are beautiful shapes, symbols and dark, distinct patterns. Fabulous spirals are among the most common seen. Most Maori people will place these beautiful designs on their face, buttocks and legs. In the Maori language, these beautiful tattoos are called “Ta Moko” in the Maori tribe, which means to strike or tap. Traditional Maori tattoos are carved into the skin with a small chisel instead of punctured into the skin by a needle like we see now.
The Maori men generally have these designs tattooed over their entire body. The Maori women generally are tattooed on the lips, chin, back and neck. The tattoo is done with a chisel made of bone or animal tusk and takes hours, even years to complete. Today when someone has a tattoo like this done, it can take up to a year to complete.
Interestingly enough, the tattoo ink comes from a common vegetable substance and the other portion is from the caterpillar. The black tattoo ink that is commonly used for the face is made of wood that is heavily burned. Maori tattoo art usually will start around adolescence for the boys, and is used to celebrate a milestone event or series of events throughout their life, representing childhood into their adulthood.
Maori tattoo art and Maori traditional tattoos is still very much a common practice and gaining greater popularity in New Zealand today and many celebrities have adorned themselves these tattoos.