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The history of Maori tattoos

Maori tattoos are traditional tattoos that have great historical value, strong artistic quality, and great cultural identity. They are truly unique tattoos and for this reason, they have become a classic style that has crossed all borders.

These are originally from Eastern Polynesia, New Zealand. And where this style of tattoos is most often worn is on the arms and legs.

We call Maori a Polynesian ethnic group known worldwide for its unmistakable war dance and its magnificent Maori tattoos with designation of origin.

But few know that in the past just 2 centuries ago they lived aristocratically divided into tribes but also practiced shamanism and were cannibals. This last one is a little scary, right?

First, it is important that you know that there is no total certainty regarding the symbolism of Polynesian tattoos, as there is no 100% accurate information about these Maori tattoos and for the most part, they are historical interpretations or assumptions.

The different clans of Polynesia are very reserved in terms of the symbolism of their art, which has a lot to do with philosophical, religious and cultural issues.

There is a lot of information that is handled in the West that may contain errors, since the meaning of this unique style of tattoos has been misinterpreted on more than one occasion.

For this reason, many of the Maori tattoos of the West have been made only for aesthetic purposes without the deep weight that gives meaning to the artistic style they have chosen.

The cultural influence on Maori tattoos

Knowing this information, it may seem a bit strange to you the amount of Maori tattoos that we find and see in people on the street without any other significance other than aesthetics, they are more than we might think.

And it is that these aborigines of New Zealand have influenced both the Maori tattoo designs, being the true pioneers in this beautiful art. In Polynesia, a special type of Maori tattoo is made reserved only for a clan called “ta moko” which has even influenced modern tattoos. How curious, right?

The tribal tattoos that we know today would not have been possible without these traditional Polynesian tattoos, as they were quite influential in the style that we know today as tribal.

Typically, Polynesians tattooed these designs on their faces and other parts of the body in order to symbolize their status in the tribe. There is a certain design for each part of the body. Today many people decide to get their faces tattooed, a practice that also draws on the Maori influence.

The design of tattoos depends on the place where it is located, so the designs are usually always unique, and created to decorate and mark a particular part of the body.

The Maori culture is quite complex and every corner hides a lot of symbolism: in some cases they are secret meanings that only members of the clan know, codes shared only among them.

For this reason it is almost impossible to make generalizations and in order to know everything about this culture, you have to travel there and learn about its cultural traditions to investigate deeply.

The inks used in Maori tattoos were the result of mixing certain natural elements such as burned wood, it is mainly used for tattoos on the face, also caterpillars infected with some fungus that were left to dry once they had rotted, then they are crushed until obtain a fine black powder that was combined with oils.