Tā moko “Tattoos” of Tawaiho, the Maori king.

Tawaiho, the Maori king of New Zealand, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left.

Tawaiho, the Maori king of New Zealand, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left.

From Wikipedia:

Tā moko is the permanent body and face marking by Māori,the indigenous people of New Zealand. Traditionally it is distinct from tattoo and tatau in that the skin was carved by uhi (chisels) rather than punctured. This left the skin with grooves, rather than a smooth surface.

Captain Cook wrote in 1769:

The marks in general are spirals drawn with great nicety and even elegance. One side corresponds with the other. The marks on the body resemble foliage in old chased ornaments, convolutions of filigree work, but in these they have such a luxury of forms that of a hundred which at first appeared exactly the same no two were formed alike on close examination.

The Tohunga tā moko (or tattooists) were considered tapu, or exceptionally inviolable and sacred.

Image information:

US Library of Congress dates the image between ca. 1900 and 1923.

National Library of Australia dates the image 1894; from Album of the Boileau family’s voyage from England to Australia in 1894-1895.

Image is from Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Record page for this image: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/94505029/


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