Download a PDF of the Maori Face Tattoo Lesson
Definition of Topic:
The native people of New Zealand, called the Maori, are world famous for their unique culture of tattooing.
Beginning centuries ago, the Maori people created designs and carved them into their faces to create extraordinarily unique tattoos called moko. The moko is very personal and the specific placement of designs on the face indicated the rank, genealogy, and even the occupation of the wearer. The Maori could look at a moko and read the history of a person’s achievements and status in their tribe, like a visual resume. The moko was also used to intimidate the enemy in battle and identify the dead. The Maori had the custom of removing and preserving the heads of warriors after death. It was a great honor to a person to have one’s head preserved, and heads became important family heirlooms. In more modern times, the practice of ta moko has diminished. However, the artistic process of moko is now being rediscovered by young Maori who want to revive their heritage and traditions.
Maori: a unique Polynesian ethnic group native to New Zealand Moko: Maori tattoo Ta Moko: the traditional tattooing process Tapu: sacred Noa: not sacred
Maori Moko Patterns & Meaning
Ngakaipikirau (rank): The center forehead area Ngunga (position): Around the brows Uirere (hapu rank): The eyes and nose area Uma ( first or second marriage): The temples Raurau (signature): The area under the nose Taiohou (occupation): The cheek area Wairua (mana): The chin Taitoto (birth status): The jaw
Art Production: Students will design an original face tattoo in the style of the Polynesian people, focusing on symmetry and balance. Art History: Students will derive their Maori face tattoo designs from the elements of the Polynesian people from New Zealand
Information about the native people of New Zealand, called the Maori, will be presented to the students. We will discuss the meaning of the placement for the tattoos (moko) and how the placement is very personal to that individual.
- The teacher will show the students how to draw a self portrait with the correct proportions.
- The teacher will then show the students the example showing that the tattoo designs will be symmetrical.
- The students’ will use mirrors to draw a self portrait in pencil.
- The students’ will use designs representing the Maori tattoos to create their face. They will draw out their designs using pencil
Techniques to demonstrate:
- Draw ideas in pencil first, then use a marker
- How to apply the concepts of symmetry and balance
Topics to discuss while working:
- Pay close attention to symmetry and balance
- Make use of the entire space given on the templates
- Relating to students a traditional Maori of Ta Moko
- Relating to students the authentic traditional process of Ta Moko.
Topics to discuss when work is complete:
- What similarities do you see between your design and the traditional Maori tattoo designs.
- Based on what you know about our culture and the information presented on Maori tattoos, how can you compare/contrast the uses of body adornment?
- The Maori use the moko to express their personal identity. How do you express who you are in similar ways?
- Does this assignment change what you may consider to be art?
Mirrors, pencils, erasers, white paper, black markers
New York State Standards within the lesson:
Standard 1: Creating, Performing and Participating in the Arts: Students will actively engage in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts and participate in various roles in the arts.
Standard 2: Knowing and Using Arts Materials and Resources: Students will be knowledgeable about and make use of the materials and resources available for participation in the arts in various roles.
Standard 3: Responding to and Analyzing Works of Art: Students will respond critically to a variety of works in the arts, connecting the individual work to other works and to other aspects of human endeavor and thought.
Standard 4: Understanding the Cultural Dimensions and Contributions of the Arts: Students will develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present society.
2.) Based on what you know about our culture and the information presented on Maori tattoos, how can you compare/contrast the uses of body decorations?
3.) The Maori use the moko to express their personal identity. How do you express who you are in similar ways?
4.) How does this assignment change what you may consider to be art?