Maori tattoo designs are enjoying a popular resurgence in tattoo popularity. This tattoo style was popular amongst a small tribe of people living in New Zealand and it’s easy to identify. The Maori people consider the tattoo a revered and sacred ritual. It is viewed as a symbol of transition and is usually inked to mark a landmark in a person’s life.
The Maori style is made up of complicated designs and patterns. Traditional Maori tattoos were most commonly placed on the face with very symmetrical and complicated patterns. One of the reasons that the New Zealand people considered this a passage or ritual is because of the pain endured by the person getting tattooed. Ironically, the Maori people believed that people without any tattoos were considered beneath people that had them unlike our own society which typically looks down on people with tattoos.
An important shape in all Maori design is the koru, a curved shape representing a local fern with a narrow shoot and rounded tip that unfurls into a leaf. This design has become a symbol of New Zealand. There are over forty different types of fern in New Zealand. The koru shape symbolizes new life, growth, strength and peace.
If staying true to tradition, a Maori tattoo artist follows very specific rules laid out for a facial moko (tattoo). It’s also true that because of the various tribes of New Zealand, these instructions had variations depending on the local. The general rules were wide spread, however, tattoos were specific to individuals, family, clans and tribes.
The way the ink is placed in the skin is by puncturing the skin with a chisel like tool or knife. This method of tattooing is much more painful than today’s methods. Some of the knives had smooth edges and some were serrated and the ink was applied into the incisions. The ink was also unique for this ritual. Black ink was made from burnt wood. Body color was caterpillar and vegetable matter.
Eventually modern methods came to replace these old traditional tribal rituals. Now the Maori design is often seen on the shoulder area instead of the face. Most Maori style tattoos are applied with modern style tattoo machines and regular tattoo ink pigments.
If the Maori style appeals to you, do some online research to narrow down your choice for design. Then visit a couple of reputable tattoo parlors to find an artist that has a passion and interest in Maori style tattooing. Some tattoo artists find intricate styles boring and prefer to stay away from this style. It is similar to Celtic design and is not enjoyable for some artists.
I think it’s an important step to find an artist that actually enjoys the Maori style. Some individuals are interested in the art form and have a respect for its origins. An artist that is enthusiastic about a style is likely to produce an exceptional piece of work.
Sources for Maori Style Designs