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1237822.  Mon May 22, 2017 2:16 pm Reply with quote

New Zealand Māori developed unique tattooing techniques, which differed from the methods used in the rest of Polynesia. While other Polynesian groups inserted pigment just under the surface of the skin with the use of puncturing combs, Māori used combs and chisels to cut deep grooves into the skin. These chisels were usually made from the bones of sea birds. A tohunga (expert) applied the moko by dipping his chisel into a pigment made from charcoal, oil, and sometimes vegetable caterpillars. He would then make the incisions by tapping the chisel with a mallet.

In Pre-European Māori culture, many high-ranking persons received moko, although some tohanga who had spiritual roles were considered too close to the gods to be interfered with in this way. In addition a person of the highest social rank might not be able to wear the moko because of the tapu (sacredness) associated with their blood. Men generally received moko on their faces, buttocks and thighs while women usually wore moko on their lips and chins.

Moko contained information about the wearer's genealogy and tribal affiliations, and their place in these social structures. Ancestry is indicated on each side of the face. The left side is generally the father's side, while the right hand side indicates the mother's ancestry. If one side of a person's ancestry was not of rank, that side of the face would have no Moko design.

Moko were distinctive enough to be used as legal signatures. For example, during the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and various Maori chiefs, many Māori signed with depictions of their moko. The Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha used a drawing of his facial moko as his signature on several legal documents, including a deed of sale for land at Cloudy Bay in the Marlborough Sounds.

In the early colonial period preserved tattooed heads became popular as souvenirs and a lucrative collectors market emerged. Māori with moko were at risk of being murdered for their heads, which resulted in a steep decline in the practice. To profit from the desirability of the preserved heads some Māori killed their slaves and posthumously tattooed them. These slave heads were referred to as mokomōkai (tattooed slaves), and museums worldwide competed to acquire them. In the 1980s a movement, led by the musician Dalvanius Prime began the process of repatriating mokomōkai from overseas collections. There is now a dedicated repatriation team at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, where the tattooed heads are refered to as toi moko (tattooed works of art).

Since the 1970s there has been a moko renaissance in New Zealand and it is once again a common practise. Māori writer / academic Dr Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, who is Professor of Psychology at Waikato University says: "Ta moko today is much more than a fashion statement, a passing fad for Māori. It is about who we are, and whom we come from. It is about where we are going, and how we choose to get there. And it is about for always, forever."



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