35 Awesome Maori Tattoo Designs

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Maori tattoo on arm

Maori tattoo, aka Moko, is a form of body art practiced by indigenous Maori people in New Zealand (Maori name: Aotearoa). Like other tattoos of Polynesian islands, Maori tattoo designs are one of source patterns in tribal tattoo designs.


Traditionally, men generally received moko on their faces, buttocks and thighs . Women wore moko on their lips and chins as well as forehead and throat. Like other Polynesian tattoos, moko used to be representation of one’s social rank or status. It is an important rite of passage for the milestone to step into adulthood from childhood. Moko is a visual statement that connects the wearer to their whakapapa (genealogy).

It’s a painful process to get moko although there’s revival of traditional tattooing process in recent years. Moko is different from modern tattooing puncturing the skin with needles, in that it is carved into the skin using uhi (chisels), leaving the skin with grooves, rather than a smooth surface.

Maori Symbols and meanings in tattoos

Maori tattoos feature intricate spiral or round patterns with many mysterious Maori symbols. There are meanings behind these symbols and often unique meanings for the tattoo.

Koru – loop, a spiral shape originated from the shape of an unfurling fern leaf grown in New Zealand. Kori symbolizes new life, growth, peace and harmony.

Hei matau – fish hook shape, representing strength, good luck and prosperity, fertility and safe journey over water.

Hei tiki – a neck ornament as a talisman to the Maori people, usually made of greenstone and carved in an abstract form of a human. Tiki shape is often found in many of tattoo designs. According to Maori legend, Tiki was the first mortal person who created the first woman after his image. It stands for fertility & good luck, protection from evil spirits.

Today Ta moko is much more than a fashion statement, and representation of one’s identity as a Māori. Māori inspired designs are called kirituhi. Electric machines are used to make the process more smoothly and less painful. Placement is also extended to other parts of body, arms, shoulders, etc. Moko can be seen as a cultural identity and is visual language that connects to old culture. Now let’s take look at the collection of 35 awesome MoKo and Maori inspired tattoo designs.

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maori tattoo

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Tattoo by Peter Walrus Madsen

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Maori tattoos for women

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polynesian tattoo by pink

 
maori-tattoos-Hei tikiPin It

Maori Hei tiki tattoos

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polynesian ribcage

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Polynesian project, chest finished

 
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Maori with flower

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Maori leg

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maori ribs tattoo

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Maori Tribal

 
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3D Tribal

 
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polynesian tattoo by jinxiejin

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Polynesian tattoo

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Tribal and Canarian symbol tattoo

 
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Freehand Polynesian Tribal similar to “the Rock” Dwayne Johnson

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Freehand Polynesian Tribal

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Maori / Polynesian shark full sleeve 2

 
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maori tattoo

 
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Carved design

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Maory polynesian sleeve

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Maori tribal II

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Maori piece

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maori tattoo

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maori tattoo

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maori tattoo

 
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Polynesian-styled half sleeve

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Final piece

 
Ta MokoPin It

Maori facial tattoo

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Maori Style Tattoo

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Draven’s Tattoo II

 
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maori tattoo

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Tribal sleeve

 
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backpiece inspired by maori artwork

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34 Maori Throat Tattoo On Clyde

14 Comments

  1. Who designed and inked the one labeled ‘Tribal Sleeve’ … It’s just the style I’ve been looking for.

    • hey dude the significance of a maori tattoo varies, Some may be desigend in the sense of a family meaning usally including ancestiral meaning in some tattoos, They look great and they are a great way to signify love marijuana and patterns representing the koros and unkos and pupatuakanas and tanieś and ogmudboneit chur cuzthe nz culture

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