Maori Tattoos Maori Tattoos and Tattooing The word tattoo derived its name from the Tahiti word "tatau". The method of marking the body with different designs came into the view of the Western world when Captain James Cook of England witnessed tattooing for the first time in the islands of Tahiti in 1769. He came back to his country and spread the name "tatau" there. The interesting tale of the origination of Maori Tattoo The Maori mythology throws up a very interesting story about how the method of tattooing commenced among the tribe of Maori. It says that there was a young man named "Mataora" and a young princess from the underworld whose name was "Niwareka". There existed a love affair between them, which was unfortunately broken when Mataora beat Niwareka for a reason unknown. This led Niwareka to leave Mataroa forever and run back to her father who was the king of "Uetonga" On the other hand, Mataora started feeling guilty once Niwareka left him. His deep love for the princess made him want to go to her by visiting her realm in the underworld. Accompanied by his determination, Mataora finally reached Uetonga after crossing many obstacles and trials on the way. However, this eventful journey made his face extremely dirty and messed up with paint. The family of Niwareka teased Mataora for this awful appearance. However, even with this dirty appearance of his, Niwareka forgave him when he begged for her acceptance. After being accepted by Niwareka and her family, Mataora was offered to be taught the important art of tattooing by Niwareka's father, and when both Mataora and Niwareka came back to the world of humans, they brought with them the art of tattooing. The Maori style of tattooing or Moko The Maori style is also known as Moko, and is a bit different from other styles of tattooing practiced in the islands of Polynesia. It is performed by the Maori tribes who belong to the East Polynesia Island and is considered to be the holy art of New Zealand. Of all of the tattoos that are created in this island, the Maori tattoos or Mokos are the most idiosyncratic ones, as they are full of their own characteristics. Firstly, they are mainly drawn on the face and are extremely beautiful. The tattoos are basically of different spiral shapes, some of which are curved while some are very intricate patters. However, the main difference is that these designs are incised into the skins to make scars in the face. These scars were mainly in the form of ridges and grooves. The tool used in Maori tattooing is bone chisel while other tattooing methods uses the general puncturing processes. The complete process is known as "Ta Moko" where it means, "to strike a design". Apart from the face, the Maori tattoos are done on the legs and buttocks of the men, while for Maori women, tattooing are done on the lips, chin, neck and the back. Since the process of Maori tattooing needs engraving the skin, it is needless to say that the whole method is exceptionally painful. However, it is considered to be a very sacred art by the people of Maori and thus most men and women of this tribe perform tattoos on their body. Tools and Equipments used in the tattooing process Contrary to the popular belief that the Maori tattoos are created with the help of needles, the main equipments used in the process are bone chisels and knives. The sharpness of the equipments depends on the design, as some require a smooth one while some needs coarse patterns like a saw. The ink to apply color to the tattoo is of two types. The ink that is used to color the body is a paste made of vegetables and caterpillar while the other ink, which is mainly for applying on the face is black ink derived from the burning of wood. The importance of Maori Tattoo in their culture Similar to the other tribes in the Polynesian islands, the Maoris regard tattooing very highly in their culture. It is expected of every Maori man and woman to get their body tattooed, as people without tattoos are considered to be worthless in the society with no respect at all. The Maori tattoo is an integral part of each and every occasion of their celebration, and thus anyone with a rank in the society needs to be tattooed. The process of tattooing starts at early adolescence as the method itself is considered to be the bridge between childhood and adulthood. Moreover, the attractiveness of a man is also determined by the designs of his tattoos. The convention of tattooing did not include the slaves and common people, as they had no rank in the society. On the other hand, tattoos, especially on the face was a matter of pride for warriors and made them extremely attractive towards women apart from serving the main purpose of making them look intimidating during a battle. In the Maori culture, women also tattooed their body, but not as illustriously as the men did. Women whose lips were tattooed with solid blue ink were considered to be very beautiful in the society. Some even tattooed on their chins and cheeks with lines or spirals. There was one more important aspect of Maori tattoos was that the designs served as the identity of the person wearing it. It has been noticed that the Maori chiefs use their facial tattoo designs as their signatures by drawing them down from memory. Prohibitions during the tattooing process As the process of tattooing is considered very sacred by the tribal people, there are several restrictions during this period. When men tattoo their body, they should not eat any solid food during the entire period of tattooing. Moreover sexual intimacy was absolutely banned during the tattooing sessions. As long as the wounds of the tattooed person did not heal completely, he is fed liquid food and water with the help of a wooden funnel.