Tattoo

All about the Maori tattoo

Tout savoir sur le tatouage maori

Ancestral tradition of Maori, this Polynesian people living in New Zealand and the Cook Islands, Maori tattooing is now found all over the world. What does it mean and is it right for you? Read it instead.

From actors to soccer players, to the hipster butcher in your neighborhood, it’s impossible to miss the maori tattoo, this tribal tattoo made for thousands of years and coming from New Zealand and the Cook Islands. Traditionally executed with the help of a small hammer to which was attached a tooth or a piece of animal bone dipped in ink, and which was repeatedly struck on the skin to mark it, they had several meanings : a rite of passage to adulthood for example, an act of bravery, or even simply belonging to a certain clan. The Maori could have their whole body and even their face tattooed, and we can also observe a resurgence of this practice among the natives of New Zealand, as a newfound pride in this ancestral practice.

What is the difference between Maori and Polynesian tattoos?

As the Maori people belong to Polynesia, this set of islands located in the Pacific, there is no difference between Maori tattoo and Polynesian tattoo. We simply provide a clarification on the type of tattoo that we want with its own patterns, even if the different Polynesian peoples have been able to influence each other as they moved, but also with the arrival of the settlers. It is also to one of them, the explorer James Cook, that we owe the origin of the word “tattoo”. Landing in Tahiti in 1769, he wrote the first on this body painting that is “tatau”, the Tahitian word for “to strike”.

What motif should you choose for your Maori tattoo?

Do you like the aesthetics of Maori tattoos but you don’t know which one to choose? You guessed it, each pattern has a precise meaning, so you just have to take the one or those who speak to you the most. Nothing prevents you of course to bet only on the decorative side of the drawing, but as much to know the story as it tells.
Not surprisingly, there are many symbols from nature, and drawn geometrically, by the instrument that was used. You will have the choice between:

  • the sun, symbol of greatness
  • The turtle, favorite animal of Maori and Polynesians in general
  • the lizard, which would be the representation of the ancestors
  • the ocean, symbol of the afterlife
  • the shell, protector
  • shark teeth, for power and adaptability
  • spear points, for strength
  • the Tiki, divine figure also protective.

On which part of the body?

As you may have noticed, the Maori tattoo is performed on certain parts of the body in the West, to be better admired. We find it very often on the shoulder to descend towards the arm and sometimes the forearm, on the upper or on the entire back, but also on the thigh and calf. For a more discreet Maori tattoo, you can opt for a simple bracelet on the forearm or on the calf, which will nevertheless have its small effect.

Where to get a Maori tattoo?

To be sure to get a Maori tattoo that meets your expectations, no surprise, it will be essential to choose a specialized tattoo artist in this practice, which will guide you in the final drawing with the patterns you have chosen. If you are patient, you can even, why not, wait for a tattoo salon like the Mondial du Tatouage in Paris to get a tattoo by a professional from Polynesia.

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