Portraits of Maori Women With Moko Kauae Chin Tattoos From 1900s

For Maori women in New Zealand, the traditional female chin tattoo or moko kauae is considered a physical manifestation of true identity. Maori women believe that they wear a moko close to their heart. When a Maori woman is ready, the tattoo artist simply brings it out to the surface.

The Maori are indigenous people of New Zealand. Moko Kauae is a form of sacred art for them referred to as Maori tattooing. This body art originated from Polynesia, a highly sacred art form.

The most popular kind of Maori tattoo was the facial tattoo, as they consider the head to be the most sacred part of the body. Often this tattoo covered the whole face and was a symbol of rank, social status, power and prestige.

Tattooing was a rite of passage for the Maori, which is highly revered and ritualised. The tattooing would begin usually during adolescence.

Maori tattoos are one of a kind. No two tattoos are alike, highly intricate and detailed, displaying the craftsmanship of the artist and the Maori culture.