Mau Moko - The World of Māori tattoo

5 December 2007
The cultural and spiritual issues surrounding Māori moko - facial or body tattoo - are investigated in a new book, "Mau Moko", by University of Waikato scholars.

"Mau Moko", published by Penguin Group NZ Ltd, examines the use of moko by traditional Māori, drawing on historical material including manuscripts and unpublished aural sources, and links the art to the present day.

The book is by Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku and Linda Waimarie Nikora, director of the university's Māori and Psychology Research Unit, and student researchers, Mohi Rua, also from the Unit, and Rolinda Karapu, of the Centre for Māori & Pacific Research and Development.

It explores the cultural and spiritual issues surrounding moko and relates dozens of powerful stories from wearers and artists.

Professor Te Awekotuku says in the traditional Māori world the moko was part of everyday life.

"Everyone had some patterning on their skin. Men wore elaborate designs on their faces while women's moko were usually less complex but elegant. Both sexes had extensive body tattooing.

"After almost dying out in the 20th century, Maori skin art is now experiencing a powerful revival, with many urban Maori displaying the moko as a spectacular gesture of ethnic pride and identity."

The book, to be launched today at the WEL Academy of Performing Arts, is the culmination of five years' work. The project was supported from 2001-2005 by a prestigious Marsden Fund grant.

"Mau Moko", described as the closest to a "complete" book on moko includes images from early European encounters, traditional Māori representations and new colour photography by award-winning photographer Becky Nunes, commissioned for the book.

The 264-page hardback edition, now available in good bookshops, has a recommended retail price of $65.00.

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