Maori designs refer to a style first instituted many centuries ago in Polynesia and New Zealand. Getting tattooed has long been a part of these island natives’ culture. The various designs of their tattoos are very carefully created and represent the wearer’s lineage. They are traditionally applied using a sharpened comb and laid out according to facial contours, in an effort to enhance an individual’s features.
Photo by “micaeltattoo” on Flickr
Although New Zealand masters of the art of tattooing, tohunga ta moko, can create some truly detailed designs even with a rather rudimentary tool, Maori tattoos tend to be more linear and geometric. Today, Maori body art is often combined with curving, curly, and spiraling designs easier to achieve with modern equipment.
Perhaps the most famous person sporting a Maori tattoo is Mike Tyson, and indeed, most Polynesians favor the face for tattoos. The style is denoted by bold lines with repeating motifs of swirls and fine dots. Fronds of the fern are a common inspiration, particularly for female facial tattooing. It is created by either pigmenting the skin with black ink, or leaving areas untouched by ink as the ‘white’ in a black and white scheme.
Photo by “geoftheref” on Flickr
Many Maori designs feature stylized shells, feathers, and animals found in islands of the South Pacific. They are beautiful pieces of body artwork which can be bold and large, or finer and more feminine, making them ideal for either men or women. While modern tattoo artists often add color to the designs, the traditional form only includes black ink.
If you are not ready to permanently transform your looks with a facial tattoo, consider a Maori design for an arm band. They also look great scrolling down a leg or across any part of the back. Even if you are not of South Pacific origin, you can enjoy one of these truly beautiful designs incorporated in your body art.