Susan Lawrence was kind to introduce me to Waihimi Hotere who works at Creative Waikato’s. She is an expert of Maori Arts. We had a meeting  in September to discuss about Maori culture so I could gathered details and ideas for my art project.

I got huge amount of information, kind of inside knowledge of habits, meanings, symbolism, explanations for many traditions. I would like bring out few topics here. These topics I feel the closest for myself and I would love to bring into my work somehow.

First of all Maori tattoos:

Their tattoos are not just a nice looking tribal. They are all uniquely designed and they present ‘Whakapapa’’ which tells who you really are. In tattoos and other Maori art you might have seen plenty of these symmetrical spirals. These spirals meaning is to bring a future and a past together as a present. However in Maori culture if you do not have whakapapa, you will not get a tattoo either.

Maori tattoo culture is very fascinating. I especially find curious how men and women have their own names for tattoos, and each gender can take tattoos only on specific places of body and face.

Women can wear ‘Ta moko’s on their:

  • A chin – cause they are the speakers of the family, they are calling you, they charm you.
  • A forehead, between eyebrows- ‘Third eye’, seeing in a future, shows the wisdom.
  • Wrist- as decorations, bracelets.

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Men wear ‘Puhoro’s: these tattoos are more of status symbols or the way to show the merits of their achievements. There can have whole facial tattoos or only half of a face. Men can have full bodies tattooed, sleeves, legs tattooed like wearing shorts etc.

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Tattoos are also way to show the hierarchy in a family or their tribe. Usually the older generations have large tattoos, because they have more of life wisdom and experience.

I brought up a question of death. In Maori tales the woman was the one who became death and made all the rest of the Tanemahuta’s children mortal.  I find this folktale, fiery and cruel, but somehow also fascinating.  In this tale you can sense the Death’s anger and revengeful. This brought up Maori’s ‘Utu’ which means seeking of revenge.

Revenge used to be important thing in their culture: Killing someone for hurting your loved ones, having an honor.

You might have seen Maoris way to greeting people by rubbing their noses and foreheads together.  It is called ‘Ahora’ which means love and compassion. They believe that nothing could be closer than breathing the same air. If you think carefully nothing really is more intimate and heart-warming than their ‘Ahora’, while breathing closely the same air.

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Last, but not least: Forrest Spirits

In the ‘Birth of Daylight’ tale there is loads of Gods which are Mother Earth’s and Father Sky’s offspring. I would like to think them as a spirits. There are multiple tales of forest spirits in many cultures. So that brought an idea of that must be real than (?)

Also there is a belief that if you get lost in a forest, it might that a forest spirit has left you.

To gather more knowledge and get to know this fascinating culture I will watch some Maori movies and have visits in museums. Also it would be good for me to meet an actual Maori art maker.


Born of woman, before she becomes death

Mother Earth crying for being apart from her love

Butterfly masks in Maori tattoos style


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