Of all the types of body art around the world it’s the traditional Maori design that appeals to me most. If you’ve ever had a chance to see these distinctive and intricate designs you will already be aware as to just how dramatic and beautiful they are. Striking yes, but their hidden meaning is not always understood and often overlooked by those that don’t understand. What is the meaning of these permanent marks on the skin and how they can be interpreted? Hopefully the rest of this article will open your eyes to the significance of these tattoos.
What really makes a Maori tattoo stand out is the beautiful spiral and curve patterns, made with really intricate detail they can possess an almost hypnotic quality. Originally these tattoos were placed on the face where they were carved in the skin using a chisel, not exactly for the squeamish that one! Adding to that the legs and buttocks of men could be covered with other bolder designs. For the women tattoos were for the most part restricted to their chin and lips but the back and neck are also popular spots. Tattoos using the bone chisels were started in childhood and then added to whenever an important event occurred during the person’s life. In effect the tattoo could represent a life story (in highlight form).
It has been observed that the traditional Maori tattoo design is done in an intricate and highly planned way, which takes the personality and facial structure of a person into account. Many small swirls form together to create a much larger pattern. In the Maori culture a persons tattoo would often testify their rank, their role and their abilities on the battlefield and in what regard they were actually held by the society. It was a very easy way of seeing in an instant how somebody fitted into their society. The persons rank was indicated by the tattoo located at the center of forehead clear for all to see, the birth status of the individual was tattooed on the jaw. The temple area depicted the martial status, whilst their mum’s ancestry was placed on the right hand side of their face and their fathers on the left hand side. When you think about these different meanings it shows just how talented these artists were in producing tattoos that flowed so easily together smaller patterns joining to form the whole whilst taking into account the form and shape of an individuals head and face.
Much like Chinese tattoos which went through a phase of being hugely popular many people have looked towards Maori tattoos for that something different. It would be great if everybody who went down this road would respect the traditions of where the art has come from. A Maori tattoo done correctly is one of the most striking designs you could opt for.