Maori tattoo is a Polynesian art form from the Maori people of New Zealand. Maori tattoos are distinguished by the use of bold lines and the repetition of specific design motifs. A traditional Maori tattoo artist, the tohunga ta moko, could produce two different types of pattern. One that was based on a pigmented line, and another, the puhoro, based on darkening the background and leaving the pattern unpigmented as clear skin. Maori tattoos are essentially curve linear, and the mainstay of Maori designs are based on the spiral. Instead of needles, the Maori people used knives and chisels called Uhi and they were either smooth or serrated. The ink was applied by means of incisions. The Uhi was usually made from an albatross bone. The ink used for Maori Tattoos was usually made from burnt wood or from a caterpillar like organism. The Maori tattoo consists of bold spiral designs covering the face, the buttocks and the legs of the Maori men. Maori women were usually tattooed on the lips and chin and in some cases on the neck and the back. Maori had a sacred significance that had a dual purpose. One, the tattoo itself and two, the painful tattooing process itself.
Maori tattoos are very beautiful, consisting of curved shapes and spirals in intricate patterns. Distinctive for Maori tattoo designs is the fact that they are based on the spiral and that they are curvilinear. The most prevalent place for a Maori tattoo was the face, probably a result of the cool New Zealand climate. Maori tattoos are among the most distinctive tattoos in the world and have their own identity amongst the Polynesian tattoos. Tattooing is a sacred art among the Maori people of New Zealand, and probably came to them from the islands of East Polynesia. Maori tattooing would usually start at adolescence, and was used to celebrate important events throughout life. The first tattoo marks the transition from childhood to adulthood and was done during a series of rites and rituals. Tattoo art was an important part of the Maori culture. In fact, people without tattoos were considered to be without status or worth. The process of Maori tattooing was a ritual, with music, chant and fasting. Since the 1990s the Maori culture and traditions are having a revival and the traditional Maori tattooing is all but extinct, Maori tattoos have made a comeback and are popular again, including the old tattoo equipment like chisels.