Mana Wahine: The Female Moko in Māori Culture

Mana Wahine: The Female Moko in Māori Culture

Tā moko represents a person’s mana (status or power) in society. This is best highlighted by the time when the chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi with their mokos in 1840.

The Moko Kauae is a chin tattoo traditional reserved for Māori women with mana (high status and power).

Mana Wahine: The Female Moko in Māori Culture

Traditionally, female healers (tohunga) had a close relationship with the gods (atua). As such, they were too sacred (tapu) to receive the Moko Kauae.

Europeans assumed that Tā moko was symbolic of a warrior status. However Māori who were considered incredibly high rankly were often considered too tapu (sacred) to receive tā moko

Healers (tohunga) would be responsible for tattooing. In ancient times, the tribe would summon all of the local tohunga to come and practice their art.

Mana Wahine: The Female Moko in Māori Culture

People would offer treasures (toanga) such as weapons, cloaks, greenstone or food in exchange for the delicate and intricate tattoo. Only the best artists would continue to be in demand.

Since the 1990’s tattooing has been a part of a widespread renaissance of Māori culture. It’s fashionable for Māori women to acquire Moko Kauae as a way of reasserting their identity, femininity and the mana of their people.

Mana Wahine: The Female Moko in Māori Culture

Contemporary tā moko artists are in high demand in New Zealand. Nowadays Māori tattoos aren’t restricted to the face and can be found all over the body.

Read more…

Maori Television: New Videoclip Showcases Moko Kauae

Teara: The Ecyclopedia Of New Zealand


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8 thoughts on “Mana Wahine: The Female Moko in Māori Culture

    1. Hey Bradley thanks for stopping by to say hi, I am so glad you liked this post, will do more about Maori culture then it seems a lot of people like it, take care xx

  1. I think they look really elegant on women. I remember when i was a kid there were a few magasine articles on the last remaining women who had moko done with an old technique. I guess they had been born in the 1870s-1880s. Nice to see it coming back again.

    1. Yes really elegant. Sometimes it adds to beauty but without a doubt it adds to the mana that you feel wearing it. It would be really tough having it done the old way with no anaesthetic and with sharp implements. I went to Te Matatini cultural festival last time it was on and a lot of wahine have it, younger women it really is a great thing. I would be reluctant to do it so young myself though. I hope one day to earn the privilege of a moko when I am really old and have hopefully done a lot with my life.

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