In yesterday’s post you learned that the “waka” was the Maori word for canoe. As you will know from my Haka post: http://kiwidutch.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/new-390/ and my recent posts of the last weeks on Rotorua, Maori culture has it’s fair share of rituals when it comes to special events, traditional greetings and in former times, making war.
Many of these are translated into carving and artwork, the spiral shape is often meant to represent to unfolding fronds of a Koru (fern) and whilst some patterns are inspired by traditions as far as I know, there are no “hard and fast ” rules when it comes to the patterns produced in Maori carving and artwork. It can vary from region to region (although many themes are reoccurring).
The Tā moko however is a different thing entirely.
Tā moko is a type of facial decoration in Maori design that these days resembles a tattoo, even though the early ones were not strictly tattoo’s because they were made with bone chisels before the use of needles.
The historical methods produced ridges on the skin instead of the smoothed skin pigmentation of the tattoo, but the tattoo method took over eventually because it left the wearer less prone to infections and was easier to implement.
Even growing up in an area of New Zealand with few Maori around me one thing I knew and understood from a very early age was that the Tā moko was very special.
So special in fact that the wearer needs to be gifted one… it’s definitely not something that you may choose for yourself, there is great spiritual meaning behind it, a very deep code of honour and respect that is “given’ with it.
Historically only persons of rank were given Tā moko although simpler ones were given to women upon maturity. Little wonder then, that when fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier used Maori motifs and Tā moko as part of one of his fashion shows that this was deeply offensive to Maori. Some designs are now considered by some Maori to be used by Non-Maori in tattoos, but opinion on this remains divided.
One small interesting fact is: Maori is the language of the Polynesian peoples, the early settlers of New Zealand probably came from Samoa, Society Islands, the southern Cook Islands and the Austral Islands in French Polynesia. The one and only word in the Maori language that is been universally transfused into the English language is the word “tattoo“.
Oh… and finally (yes, I’m known for taking the scenic route LOL) the topic of this post… the Detail of Maori Decoration on the Waitangi Waka…