Maori Tattoo Design – Trend vs Tradition

What is a Maori tattoo? Have you ever seen a Maori tattoo design? Some of you might have asked the above question when seeing someone with just a phenomenal tattoo walk by. But how much do we actually know about the culture and history behind? The Maori tattoos art was brought to New Zealand centuries ago, then European figured out the land and their art influenced them. Since then, its designs have been around and still looking dope. With a touch of modern art, Maori tattoo has made its comeback and rocking the tattoo community. Let’s have a look at it.

The Difference Between Modern and Tradition


Modern Maori tattoos are inked by needles and tattoo machines. Meanwhile, traditionally the tattoo does not include any needles, only knives, and chisels. With the ancient tribe, they used shark teeth, sharpened bone to make the chisels. That’s why, in the old ways, Maori tattoos are quite hurtful and require a lot of strength and courage. 

In the old days, Maori people always made their ink with natural ingredients. Burnt wood, fungus, and animal fat are the main ingredients for black ink and other pigments. While in modern life, we use manufactured ink, so the process is much faster and less painful. The Maori tattoo design in modern techniques is always looking sharper and cleaner than before.

The Art of Ancient Tribal

In fact, according to the tradition of New Zealand’s tribes, Maori tattoo is a way to rank a person’s social status. At that time, only people with high ranks were allowed to have tattoos. To them, Maori facial tattoo is the way to show their position, marital, and achievements. 

By the time of the 19th century, Maori tattoos were fascinating by Western culture and began to be done by machines. Tribal tattoos started to become a trend in the early 2000s and continue for years. Modern techniques are helping so much in making this design come back with a better version. But the ancient techniques still have their path. Many New Zealand tattoo artists are doing it in the old ways to honor the Maori tradition. 

Maori Tattoos Design

There are many patterns that you can only see in Maori tattoos. This is how they shaped the complete story by building up patterns together.

Taratarekae: This is one of the most iconic designs that you can always see in Maori design, which means whale teeth. It consists of two parallel lines with a tiny triangle placing inward. 

Maori Tattoo

Ahauaha matatu: This means achievements in Maori design, which contains parallel lines in pairs with vertical lines inside. 

Unaunahi: Another incredible parallel design, but comes with pointing lines inwards that looks like round fish scales. This represents wealth and prosperity.

Koru: This is one of the typical Maori tattoo designs, which means spiral. It represents a new journey, life, and growth.

Hei tiki: the tiki is considered a lucky charm and the symbol of knowledge and loyalty.


This designs are unique, and no tattoo can look the same, each will speak out your story and personal experience. If you want an incredible and different design, how about going for one?

Maori Tattoo

Maori Tattoo

Maori Tattoo

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