Moko Renaissance: The Rebirth of Maori Tattooing as an Assertion of Identity

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Maori, tattoo, identity, moko, art


Art and Design | History of the Pacific Islands | Indigenous Studies | Race and Ethnicity


The art of moko among the Maori of New Zealand declined soon after their contact with the Europeans in 1760. The exchange of mokomokais (preserved heads) for weapons and the introduction of Christianity collectively led to the cultural decline of moko. During the last forty years, moko has received an enriched revival among the Maori, and continues to do so. The argument of this paper is that the renaissance of moko reflects in myriad ways--not all consistent with one another--the systemic renewal of ethnic awareness among the Maori: the so-called Maori Renaissance . Moko is a visual form that enables the Maori to assert their identity even when living in urbanized and diversified environments. It also serves as a form of opposition against the effects of colonialism, which the Maori now face. Moko is being revived as part of a larger cultural awareness among two principal groups of wearers, gangs and traditional moko wearers, as an attempt to reconstruct their identity in the wake of colonial pressures which dispersed the majority of their customs and traditions.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status


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