Story: Tā moko – Māori tattooing

'Tohunga ta moko at work', 1915

'Tohunga ta moko at work', 1915

This well-known 1915 painting by Gottfried Lindauer shows a young chief on the King Country frontier receiving a chisel moko. The tohunga tā moko (tattooing expert) holds his uhi (chisel) in his left hand, with its blade dipped in blue pigment. Round his little finger is wrapped soft flax pith for wiping away blood. In his other hand he holds his māhoe (mallet). To the left sits an elderly chief, who may be chanting a karakia (prayer) to encourage the moko recipient to be strong and endure the pain. 

Using this item

Auckland Art Gallery – Toi o Tāmaki
Reference: 1915/2/49
Oil on board by Gottfried Lindauer

Permission of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Rawinia Higgins, 'Tā moko – Māori tattooing - Tohunga tā moko', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 April 2024)

Story by Rawinia Higgins, published 5 Sep 2013