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Maori Tattooing Practices Essay

2105 words - 8 pages

The Maoris of New Zealand had several art forms that were distinctive to their culture. These art forms included woodcarving, cloak weaving, and tattooing. The most unusual of these crafts was the tattooing, which they traditionally placed on their faces, thighs, and buttocks. They tattooed by dipping a sharpened piece of bone into pigment, which was then tapped, on the area of skin to be tattooed, with a mallet. This art form was practiced universally among the Maoris. (Hiroa, 1949). All societies have intricacies in their cultures. One of the Maori's intricacies was that they had ritual tattooing of the tribe members. They called it ta moko with "Ta being the act of striking the mallet and moko being the resultant pattern" (Hiroa 1949). There were several important facets to this practice: the design, the origin myth, the tools, and the rituals surrounding the tattooing, and what it means to the Maoris of today.The Maori's myth of the origin of ta moko was that a man named Mataora took Niwareka, who lived in the spirit world, as his wife. After they were married for a while, Mataora got jealous and angry with Niwareka and eventually struck her. Such actions were unknown to theHarmon 2people who lived in the spirit world. Therefore, soon after he struck her, she went back to her home, the spirit world. After she left, Mataora became full of grief and went to find her. He went to the guardian of the entrance of the spirit world, Te Kuwatawata. Mataora asked him if he had seen Niwareka, and the guardian said that she had been weeping when she passed through the entrance to the spirit world. Te Kuwatawata then allowed Mataora to go into the spirit world to look for Niwareka.On his search Mataora came to the home of Ue Tonga, Niwareka's father. Ue Tonga was tattooing a person's body. When Mataora saw this he was surprised because there was blood flowing freely from the body of the person being tattooed. In the upper world, where he lived, designs were painted on the body. Mataora told Ue Tonga that their method of tattooing was incorrect, but Ue Tonga disagreed telling him that the method used in the upper world was wrong because their designs were effortlessly rubbed away. So, Mataora learned how to perform the true form of tattooing through punctuation. Then he had the designs drawn on him and was tattooed by Ue Tonga, using the real method of tattooing. After being tattooed Mataora got his wife, Niwareka, and returned to the upper world. With his return to the upper world, he spread the knowledge of tattooing by puncture (Best, 1979).Harmon 3The patterns of tattoo that the Maoris got from Mataora tattoos were those, which are marked "on the nose, the sides of the mouth and over the eyebrows." The designs that came to the upper world from Niwareka's tattoos were the patterns on the cheeks and on the forehead. Women's tattoos on the lips and chin are designs that are more modern. Before Mataora returned from the spirit world with the knowledge of...

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