Design / Fashion

How to design a Ta Moko, the Maori tattoo

The Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, have a strong and long tradition of tattoos. Both men and women get tattoos, although only men receive the characteristic full face tattoos. A tattoo, or Ta Moko represents the social status of a person, family history, tribal affiliation and even marriage eligibility. The fact that a non-Maori wants to get a Ta Moko can be a touchy subject, so the design must be well thought out to avoid offense. Swirling and geometric patterns are made to stand out, but if you seek something more personal, here are 5 steps to design your very own Ta Moko:

Ta Moko

Ta Moko

1. Investigate thoroughly: disrespectful tattoos are the greatest risk for non-Maori people when they want that kind of tattoo. Since Maori tattoos are a form of identification, you should never copy an existing tattoo, cause that would be essentially stealing an identity. As we can see with other culturally significant body art, the chances of getting a tattoo with a pitiful meaning are high if some proper research hasn’t been done previously.

2. Choose the location for your tattoo: facial tattoos are the most common Maori designs. However, this might not be an eligible option for most people. The Maori also make full body tattoos, with areas such as the back, arms and breasts decorated with spiral designs. Consider your lifestyle when choosing the place for your tattoo, and make a design somewhere that can be easily covered with clothing. The location of your tattoo will dictate the type of design that is appropriate.

Ta Moko face

Ta Moko face

3. Work with a local artist to create the design of your tattoo: you may have to go outside your area, but there are many artists who are specialized in Maori designs. Working with a qualified artist will ensure that you get a proper respectful and meaningful tattoo able to represent you. Ask to see a sample of the artist’s work so you’ll know if your ability is up to par.

4. If the search for an artist in your area is too hard, look for a Maori tattoo artist from all around the world: get someone abroad for the design of the tattoo and a local artist to run it.

5. Consider the possibility of a Kirituhi tattoo design if you’re worried about the meaning of your tattoo: initially, Kirituhi were painted on the body with charcoal. Nowadays, they have experienced a modern revival, being tattooed on the skin. These tattoos are inspired by Ta Moko, but have no real meaning. Thus, you’ll get all the aesthetic benefits of a Maori tattoo without the cultural problems.

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