Traditional Māori tattooing, known as tā moko, is a tāonga (treasure) to Māori people and culture.
What is tā moko
New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) artist Arakatera Maihi (Katz)
says tā moko (Māori tattoo) has to be about connection, otherwise it’s just a drawing. Connections can be between you, your whanau (family), your area, your environment or anything else specific to your life.
The Māori designs in tā moko (Māori tattoo) are derived from the natural environment which holds history with origins from various iwi (tribes).
Even, if you’re not from a Māori iwi, the artist listens to your korero (narrative) and reaches back into their knowledge of designs and meaning to appropriately use concepts which bring to life your individual story.
The New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) has a government mandate to preserve, promote and perpetuate Maori arts and crafts – the tā moko (Māori tattoo) artists at NZMACI are authentic and world renowned.
How the tā moko process works
The moment you step foot in the Tā Moko (Māori tattoo) Studio you’ll feel at ease - both Katz and Jake ensure an atmosphere where all nervousness disappears.
The tā moko (Māori tattoo) process starts with a korero (conversation) between you and either Katz or Jake about your story of connection which is then transformed into a Māori visual representation drawn straight onto your body, which is then tattooed. No design ideas are shown, as part of tā moko (Māori tattoo) is “getting what you’re meant to receive”, explains Katz.
Tā moko (Māori tattoo) artist Jake says sometimes people come in feeling nervous and he sees a transformation in them through the process.
“It can feel like a risk to entrust your story to someone else and then let them have access to your skin.
“It means emotional, spiritual and physical stress is involved in this process - we participate in that as artists and help to resolve those issues - it’s a leap of faith on both sides.”
He explains there’s a sense of relief and pride once a tā moko (Māori tattoo) is underway.
“People often go inward, sometimes in a meditative state while the tā moko (Māori tattoo) pain is happening - they’re in a different realm, and as artists, we enter our own realm too - it’s very focused.”
Afterwards, the visual representations of the tā moko (Māori tattoo) are explained to the client by the artist.
“Clients walk out with a big smile on their face feeling like they’ve released whatever they needed to release with that piece.”
We recommend booking at least 72 hours in advance (at least 24-hours notice required).
Three hour tā moko (Māori tattoo) blocks cost $960 and this price includes the admission of another person to be with you. The minimum time frame is three hours.
Body area timeframe examples:
Calf: 3 hours
Shoulder top to bicep: 3 - 6 hours
Full back: 15 - 21 hours
Chest: 3 - 9 hours
Ribs: 3 - 6 hours
Forearm: 6 hours
Full puhoro: 39 – 60 hours
*Please note: tā moko can be anywhere you like, these are just examples
Does it hurt? Can I take something beforehand for the pain?
Yes, it does hurt - but pain is part of the journey, so we don’t recommend taking anything beforehand. People go inward often, sometimes in a meditative state when the tā moko (Māori tattoo) pain is happening - they’re in a different realm and the artists enter their own realm too - it’s very focused.
Where doesn’t it hurt as much?
It hurts everywhere - but they’re just different types of pain. Also everyone has a different pain threshold. It is however, known to be least sore where the sun’s rays hit your body. For example the forearm is okay, however the inner forearm is more painful.
Can my history be too complicated?
No it can’t be - the artists prefer to have too much information, rather than not enough
Do you do design requests?
No we don’t as this isn’t an everyday tattoo studio. Tā moko is a Maori craft and you’re not going to know what you get until it is finished. Even the artist doesn’t know.
How do I prepare my body for a tā moko?
The area will need to be hairless, so shave beforehand and make sure you arrive clean as it is a sterile space. Do not drink any alcohol 24 hours beforehand.
The Tā Moko Studio, as part of the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, operates within Te Puia and is offered to manuhiri (costings to be discussed with Reservations team depending on length of time). It is another unique experience at Te Puia and a great addition to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute.