maori tattoo designs

Te Moko - The art of Maori tattoos

The styles and methods of tattooing in 21st century New Zealand are extremely diverse. From traditional Maori and Pacifica styles, through to modern Anime, the style is varied, but tattooing first began in New Zealand with Ta Moko.

 

The early days of Te Moko

It’s impossible to establish when Ta Moko started as there are no written records pre-colonisation, as there was no formal Maori written language. Instead, historians have had to rely on archaeologists and the accounts of the first European settlers. Excavated sites have found tattooing tools dating back to the very earliest settlers, with some of the tools the same as the ones used in Samoa. Although the patterns and designs vary throughout the Pacific when it comes to tattoos, the technique of rhythmically tapping a bone chisel, lashed to a small wooden shaft remains the same.

Some of the earliest accounts of tattooing in New Zealand were by Sydney Parkinson. Parkinson was Captain James Cook’s artist on board the Endeavour, when it landed in Poverty Bay in 1769. He sketched and painted local Maori displaying their Moko, and described in detail the different styles and patterns he witnessed.

The Explorers noticed that Maori women were not as extensively tattooed as the men. Their upper lips were outlined, usually in dark blue, and their nostrils were also very finely incised. The chin moko was always the most popular, and continued to be practiced even into the 1970s.

Telling a story through tattoos

Ta Moko facial tattoos aren’t just for decoration, they also tell a story. A person’s ancestry is indicated on each side of the face. The left side is generally (but not always, depending on the tribe) 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. Likewise if, in the centre forehead area there is no Moko design, this means the wearer either has no rank, or has not inherited rank.

Talk to Tristan

If you’re interested in getting a Maori tattoo design, then you should come see Tristan at Sunset Tattoo.

Tristan is of Te Rarawa descent, from the Hokianga in the far north. He graduated from the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts institute in 2014 with a diploma in Whakairo Rakau (traditional wood carving). Not long before Tristan graduated, he approached Tom about learning the craft of tattooing and bringing his knowledge of carving and Maori art over to the medium.

Tristan is now tattooing full time with Sunset, and specializes in Ta Moko, Blackwork, pattern work, geometric and dot-work tattoo styles.

Talk to Tristan about a Maori tattoo design

If you’re interested in getting a Maori tattoo design, then you should come see Tristan at Sunset Tattoo.

Tristan is of Te Rarawa descent, from the Hokianga in the far north. He graduated from the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts institute in 2014 with a diploma in Whakairo Rakau (traditional wood carving). Not long before Tristan graduated, he approached Tom about learning the craft of tattooing and bringing his knowledge of carving and Maori art over to the medium. Tristan is now tattooing full time with Sunset, and specializes in Ta Moko, Blackwork, pattern work, geometric and dot-work tattoo styles.

When researching your Maori tattoo design, it’s a good idea to come talk to Tristan first. A little knowledge about Maori culture and Maori tattoo design will help you make an informed choice about what it is you want. The art of tattooing is a rich and historic part of Maori culture, and is therefore deserving of respect. In Cultural terms, each Maori tattoo design had a deeper meaning, represented a milestone, or told its own story.

The original tattooing method consisted of cutting into the skin, rather than inking the top layers. This method has been documented as one of the oldest in the world, going back generations. Today it isn’t quite as painful or dangerous, and people don’t need to be heading off to war in order to get one. Maori tattoo design are more popular than ever, with more and more complex patterns and designs adorning everyone from housewives to CEOs.

So if you’re interested in a Maori tattoo design, come and see us at Sunset Tattoo. Book an appointment with Tristan, even if it’s just for a chat about your options. Our studio is relaxed, cosy and clean; everything you want in a tattoo studio.

Facebook removes Maori tattoo for “breaching standards”

When do tattoos cross the line from art to indecent? And how do you draw the line when it comes to cultural identity? Well, apparently Facebook knows the answer to all these questions. They recently removed a photo of a traditional Maori body tattoo (a pūhoro) by Auckland tattooist Hirini Katene.

Facebook claimed it breached their community standards policy, but Hirini has been left confused by the decision. "I don't know why the video was removed - when everybody else looks at it, it's a piece of art," he says.

A pūhoro is a tattoo on a thigh, and this is where the problems seem to have come from. The photo shows... wait for it… someone’s tattoo’d arse! Of course in this day and age of mass shooting, suicide bombs and constant warfare filling people’s newsfeeds, someone’s bum is clearly crossing the line.

Hirini wasn't sure if someone had made a complaint or if Facebook's own monitors had removed the photo, but says he "was pretty let down." He told One News some people chose to see the nudity rather than the artwork the video was intended to showcase, and that there was nothing sexual about it.

Like genuine Maori tattoos, the patterns on the Pūhoro are linked back to where he's from, his whakapapa, his genealogy, all his ancestors, they're all put into that piece. "I've just done this amazing piece and that's what I'm trying to show off, nothing else.”

When researching your Maori tattoo design, it’s a good idea to come to Sunset and talk to Tristan first. A little knowledge about Maori culture and Maori tattoo design will help you make an informed choice about what it is you want. The art of tattooing is a rich and historic part of Maori culture, and is therefore deserving of respect. In Cultural terms, each Maori tattoo design had a deeper meaning, represented a milestone, or told its own story.

Contact us today for more information.

Come to Sunset for a Maori Tattoo

New Zealand is a natural wonderland. From the glaciers and snow-capped mountains of the South Island, up to the rolling hills and sub-tropical rainforests of the North Island, there are very few, if any countries which can match us for our diverse landscape. It's no wonder that when people visit Aotearoa, they often stay, or at the very least, bring a piece back in their hearts.

No place like it

It's no surprise then that we attract millions of tourists each year: over three million last year alone. Bearing in mind that New Zealand only has a population of 4.5 million, that's two thirds of the country! From adventure seekers to Lord of the Rings enthusiasts, to thousands of globe-trotting backpackers, New Zealand lives long in the memory of many, many people.

Many of these tourists want something to remember their amazing trip by, and they need something more sentimental than a stuffed Kiwi. That's where Sunset Tattoo come in. A Maori tattoo is the perfect memento of New Zealand. It's a unique part of our culture, signifies a special time in your life, and of course, looks fucking awesome. 

Call us for a Maori Tattoo

Tristan is our resident artist who specialises in Maori tattoos and Pacifica designs. Being Maori himself, and studying at the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute, he understands the meaning, complexity and history behind genuine Maori tattoos. If you're interested in an authentic Maori tattoo, then this is the man to talk to.

If you would like to request a booking or consultation you can send us an email, call us, or pop into the studio. Please note that some of our tattoo artists are booked up for weeks so it pays to book in advance if you have a specific date in mind that you want to be tattooed on. As for consultations, they usually take around 10-20 minutes and are free of charge. For Maori tattoo design, there's simply no one better to come to.

Leave Aotearoa with a Maori tattoo!

Ask any Kiwi and they’ll tell you New Zealand is the most beautiful place in the world. And with very few countries able to match our sheer diversity when it comes to natural landscape, they’d be right. From the tip of the North Island with its sub-tropical rainforests, down to the bottom of the South Island and its frozen glaciers, Aotearoa is a natural wonderland. 

It's no surprise then that we attract millions of tourists each year: almost 3 million in 2014. Bearing in mind that New Zealand only has a population of 4.5 million, that's two thirds of the country! 

Many of these tourists want something to remember their amazing trip by, and they need something more sentimental than a stuffed Kiwi. That's where Sunset Tattoo come in. A Maori tattoo is the perfect memento of New Zealand. It's a unique part of our culture, signifies a special time in your life, and of course, looks fucking awesome. 

Tristan is our resident artist who specialises in Maori tattoos and Pacifica designs. Being Maori himself, and studying at the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute, he understands the meaning, complexity and history behind genuine Maori tattoos. If you're interested in an authentic Maori tattoo, then this is the man to talk to.

Call us today to book your consultation, or drop us an email if you plan on coming to Auckland and would like to leave with something special. For Maori tattoo design, there's simply no one better to come to.