Maori Fish Hook Tattoo

Maori Fish Hook Tattoo

The Maori symbols or meaning or hei matau, more commonly known as the fish hook symbolises prosperity. Maori use fish in many of their traditional food dishes. Fish were so plentiful to the Maori that the simple ownership of a fish hook meant prosperity. The fish hook also represents strength, determination and good health, as well as providing safe journey over water.
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Maori Fish Hook Tattoo

If you are a non-Maori who admires Maori artwork and tattooing and wants to have one done it is advisable to seek out a Maori tattoo artist with sufficient knowledge of ta moko. We have extensively experienced Maori artists here at Zealand Tattoo who are able to design you a custom, yet traditional, Maori design that is respectful and in honour of traditional Maori.
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Maori Fish Hook Tattoo

The origin of Maori symbols used in art were and still remain very important to Maori culture. Hundreds of years ago they had the power to remember story’s of life, myths of creation, tales of the wearer, lineage and spirituality, before there was a written language as we know today. Whether painted, tattooed or carved, each symbol had strong associated meanings with all the subtlety of a spoken language. The way they were drawn, their orientation and size all influenced their intended meaning, much like arranging a sentence in written English. It was important to get this right so that the symbols told the right ‘story’. So much so that individuals with the skill, Ta Moko artists for example, were seen as sacred in ancient Maori society. Today Maori symbols and meanings in Ta Moko still are very clear. Symbols used in pounamu carving are simpler in design because the material is more limiting, and therefore have less specific meanings. There are six extremely popular symbols used time and time again in pounamu carving, they are the koru, the twist, the manaia, the tiki, the fish hook and the toki blade. Lets explore the symbolism and meaning behind each.
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Maori Fish Hook Tattoo

Despite the little amount of information that we have on the origins of the Maori tattoo, it has a rich recorded history. Several books have been published about the subject of Maori tattoos since the first time European’s saw it. The books, such as those my the aforementioned Major General Robley as well as Michael King and John Rutherford have helped in preserving the significance and interest in Maori tattoos. The lack of definite origins seems to add more mystique to this already captivating form of early art. Perhaps it is that mystery which has made the Maori tattoo endure.
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Maori Fish Hook Tattoo

European explorers in New Zealand were very interested in the art of Maori tattooing and culture. Often Maori would take the tattooed heads of their enemies as trophies during war and kept them in ornate boxes as symbols of power, conquest and protections. Because Europeans made regular contact with Maori tribes, a group of missionaries later decided to study Maori and try to convert them to the ideals of Christianity. In 1814, taking with them a chief by the name of Hongi, the Europeans sailed back to England.

Maori Fish Hook Tattoo

The fish hook was an important resource for Maori, as the sea provided a rich source of food. In Maori mythology, New Zealand was fished up out of the sea by Maui.
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Maori Fish Hook Tattoo

Since the Maori people consider the head to be the most sacred part of the body, the most popular kind of Maori tattoo was the facial tattoo, which was composed of curved shapes and spiral like patterns. Often this tattoo covered the whole face and was a symbol of rank, social status, power and prestige.
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Maori Fish Hook Tattoo

The twist, or ‘pikorua’ as it in known in New Zealand, is a relatively new Maori symbol with design roots in nature. It’s said to represent the path of life and symbolize the strong bond between two loved ones. It’s a powerful expression of loyalty because the arms of the twist have no end point, just like lifelong relationships. Some say the symbols design is based on the weave pattern of the kete and some say it’s based on the arms of the pikopiko fern. What we do know is it’s relatively new because Maori didn’t possess the required tools to create the complex undercuts in the symbols design. It’s quite possible Maori began being carving these symbols for trade once New Zealand was colonized by the Europeans and diamond carving tools were introduced (post 1800).
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A less historical explanation of the origin of Maori tattoo can be found in the local legend which suggests that ta moko, the Maori tattoo, came from the underworld, called Uetonga. The legend states that there was a young warrior called Mataora, who fell in love with the princess of the underworld, called Niwareka. Niwareka came above ground to marry Mataora.

Maori tattoo traditionally does not involve the use of needles; rather the Maori used knives and chisels made from shark teeth, sharpened bone or sharp stones. The chisel, also called the uhi, was made from albatross bon although some were said to be made of iron. Knives and chisels were either plain and smooth or serrated, and these were used interchangeably depending on the intended pattern or design in the skin.

Due to the sacred nature of the Maori tattoo, those who were undergoing the process, and those involved in the process, could not eat with their hands or talk to anyone aside from the other people being tattooed. Those who were receiving tattoos made it a point to not cry out in pain, because to do so was a sign of weakness. Being able to withstand the pain was very important in terms of pride for Maori people.
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The focal point of Maori tattooing was generally the face. Men had full facial tattoos, while women only had their chin, lips and nostrils tattooed. Some Maori also had other parts of the body tattooed, such as their back, buttocks and legs. Women were more often known to tattoo their arms, neck and thighs.
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Since tribal-patterns of tattoo grew in popularity in the late 1990s, early 2000s, more and more non-Maori are copying designs and incorporating in their own art. Since then, more traditional Maori art has made a comeback and people are inserting their own meanings and themes into the more traditional art work.
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Maori symbols are shared across many New Zealand art forms (tattoo art and pounamu carving especially) and have symbolism or meaning that stems from their original use hundreds of years ago: to visually represent parts of the culture, belief system, and history of Maori. The symbols represent the future and past. Some reference stories of desire and memory, of strength, history and commitment, of loyalty, relationships, and they carry values from the past to those in the future. When carved in pounamu, tattooed on the skin, or hung on the wall today, you are displaying part of who you are, where you have come from, and whats important to you.
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The designs used in Maori artwork on sale here at ( necklaces, pendants, wood carvings, tattoo, etc) all carry a spiritual meaning. Early Maori did not have a written history, so their arts and crafts took on the role of being a record of spiritual values and beliefs, as well as a historical family record.

The tribal ink discloses Maori traditions, as they had a ritual cannibalism, warriors ate their victims and took their powers, as a sign of the ritual, they applied fish hook tattoos. So this tight ornament may indicate an unscrupulous and even cruel man.
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Hongi exchanged his gifts for a number of muskets and an ample supply of ammunition on the way home, in Sydney. Upon his return to New Zealand, he used the weapons to launch a series of raids against enemy tribes. The Maori later discovered that Europeans would actually trade tattooed Maori heads for weapons.
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Commonly known as a good luck charm the tiki is also considered a symbol of fertility. Assumed to be clear thinking, perceptive, loyal and knowledgeable, the wearers strength is their character. The tiki is a talisman to the Maori people, and has been regarded as a good luck charm from the ancient times. The Maori believe the tiki represents the unborn human embryo. The most valuable tiki’s were carved from greenstone and were handed down through generations and treasured possessions.
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Whales and dolphins, and in fact all sea creatures and birds, were of huge importance to the Maori as a food and utensil source. Sea creatures were particularly revered. The whale is a symbol of great size and intelligence, and carvings of whales appear on some Maori meeting houses or food storehouses.
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The Toki (adze) was an important Maori implement, used to chip and shave wood and stone, and sometimes used as a weapon. In bone or greenstone, it was traditionally worn by Maori elders, as it represented power, wisdom and authority.
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The Maori facial tattoo was not only seen as a sign of rank though, but was also used as a kind of identification card. For men, their face tattoo showed their accomplishments, status, position, ancestry and marital status. It is considered highly insulting to be unable to recognise a person’s power and position by his moko.

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