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The Maoris are people of Polynesian origin who have inhabited New Zealand for more than a thousand years. Their culture is rich with myth, legends, and art forms including body art or tattoos. In fact Maori tattoos have religious significance, and it's a matter of tradition for every Maori man or woman to have his own unique tattoo pattern. For them, it was more than just body art. It was an expression of a person's unique personality. Today, this tattoo art is quite popular, with celebrities like Robbie Williams and Ben Harper sporting Maori-inspired tattoos.

The reason for the wide popularity of Maori tribal tattoo designs is that they stand out due to the unique, interwoven spirals and curved patterns. In fact most Maori tribal tattoo designs have a curvilinear or spiral structure enriched with various shapes that hold significance as religious symbols among this clan.

A special tattoo design is so integral to a member of the tribe that it is his identity. It is given so much importance that, copying a unique design pattern from a Maori is taken as a personal insult! So make sure that the tattoo artist that you go to is not copying any traditional patterns as it is considered as sacred art. Going for patterns inspired by traditional tribal Maori tattoos are the ones you should opt for.

Maori Tattoo Ideas

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Traditional Maori Tattoo Design Technique: Ta Moko

Among the Maoris, traditional tribal tattoos are known as 'Ta Moko'. Tattoos for men used to be bold spiral patterns that usually covered the face, legs, and buttocks. The ones for women were usually carved on the chin, lips, neck, and back. Unlike modern tattooing techniques, the traditional tattoos were carved in, using a chisel in ancient times. These chisels were made from albatross bones and the tattoo ink was applied through incisions in the skin.

The ink was derived from animal sources and consisted of the processed remains of a fungus infected caterpillar. Dark black ink that was used to carve tattoo designs on the face was derived from ash created through burning of wood. Tattooing was a lifelong process that began in adolescence and continued throughout the life for a Maori man. Getting tattoos carved in the traditional way was especially painful experience, and the tattoo symbols were a mark of courage and respect for them. There were specialist tattoo artists in the tribes called the Tohunga Ta Moko who were assigned the job.

Interpreting the Symbolism of Maori Tattoos

The continuous, cyclic spiral patterns were inspired by the beauty that the Maori observed in nature. The aesthetic appeal of these spiral patterns and intricate designs is even found in traditional Maori carvings called Whakairo. Every Maori tattoo is a manifestation of the life force that drives nature. They are pictorial equivalents of the rhythms that the Maori found in nature.

Every aspect of nature can be found in a Maori tribal tattoo in the form of representations of animals and some sacred Maori symbols, that have origin in their mythology. You can observe thousands of such tattoo designs online and improvise to create your own patterns, if you are an artist. The colors used in modern Maori-inspired tattoos are generally black, blue and red. There are artists who can design a personalized tattoo for you and you can contact them through their websites. First, they send you a sketch of the tattoo according to your requirements. If you approve of it, they set up a date for rendering the tattoo along with date and place.

Make sure that you choose a pattern that you can identify with, as like the traditional Maoris, it will become a part of your identity.