Maori Women and Sacred Tattoos

The moko kauae, a sacred female chin tattoo for the Maoris of Polynesia, is making a revival amongst the indigenous women of the region. This body and facial tattooing is known as Ta moko, and amongst the Maori women, "was a rite of passage, maeking the passage between girl and adulthood." This meant to signify family and social heritage, along with beliefs regarding the afterlife. The tattoos are of intricate design, none alike in their make, and used to be made through a chiseling tool and black ink. It was banned and discontinued due to colonization and the repression of all that is Maori, therefore its revival is a phenomenon of gaining and exhibiting agency and a certain form of thought.

In such a context, it is interesting to consider the methods of the revival - such as a tattoo artist gaining training from remote areas far off where the art was still practiced, and performing the action in her tattoo parlour. The marriage of the recent and the ancient comes together in such ways, and displays how sometimes the young can appropriate history and culture to understand it through their own lense, and also make it their own. It is the regaining, but also the reforming of an identity. 



Date Published: 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016



  • Maori
  • Tattoos


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  • Indigenous Rights
  • Maori
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