Facial Folk ArtFor the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, ta moko (facial tattoos) have long been considered folk art.
Believed to have been brought from Polynesia this style of facial marking is considered sacred. The Maori believe their heads to be the most sacred part of their bodies and so the artwork applied to the head is, by association, sacred.
Facial tattoos comprised of spiral patterns and curved shapes that covered the entire face were a symbol of prestige, power, social status and rank. It is also a highly ritualized and revered rite of passage that us8ally begins during adolescence.
Each tattoo is unique and detailed; intricately done to show off the artistry and craftsmanship of the Maori artist (tohunga) – man or woman - who is respected and often recognized as holy.
History of Maori Tattoos
The historical explanation for the origin of Maori tattoo came from the underworld called Uetonga. Legends state that a young warrior named Mataora fell in love with the beautiful princess of underworld named Niwareka. The princess decided to came above ground just to marry Mataora. Unfortunately he mistreated the princess and she decided to go back to the underworld.
Mataora felt guilty about his treatment of her and apologized to her parents. Niwareka’s father taught Mataora about the stunning art of ta moko which he brought to his people.