Get Inked in New Zealand – Maori Tattoos and Kirituhi

in New Zealand

The ultimate souvenir of any vacation is a tattoo, a permanent reminder of the place you have visited and the things you have seen. Many visitors to New Zealand hope to get inked in the traditional Maori style, but there are a few things to consider before you go under the needle.

A Maori warrior

A Maori warrior

Maori tattoos, or ta moko, are not tattoos as we know them. Instead of puncturing the skin with needles, moko artists carve the skin with chisels, known as uhi. This leaves textured grooves in the skin, rather than the smooth surface of a traditional tattoo.

Maori tattoos are a key part of the culture of these native people. They show respect for tradition, and a commitment to one’s Maori identity. Men typically wear the tattoos on their thighs, arms, faces, and buttocks, while women are tattooed on their chin and lips. Every tattoo is unique, recounting the story of its wearer, their family, and their place in their tribe.

Given their cultural significance, many believe that only Maori people should wear ta moko. In fact, many Kiwi tattoo artists refuse to give moko tattoos to those without Maori blood. However, many artists will replicate the style with comparable tattoos known as kirituhi.

These tattoos do not contain the family genealogy or stories of the moko designs, and so do not offend the Maori people who are protective of their culture. For anyone who likes the style of these eye-catching tattoos, this culturally sensitive compromise will usually suffice.

If you are interested in getting a kirituhi tattoo while in New Zealand, visit Uruora Moko Studios in Tolaga Bay, Otautahi Tattoo in Christchurch, and Electric Ink Tattoo in Levin and Paraparaumu.

[Image Source: Geoftheref/Flickr]

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