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Tā Moko

You may know someone who wears their heart on their sleeve, but do you know someone who wears their heritage on their face? This is true for some members of the Māori community, where the practice of tā moko—or spiritual or social tattoos on the face, legs or other parts of the body—has recently undergone a revival.

In earlier times, these beautiful tattoos represented elevated social class or the progression from childhood to adulthood. Both men and women had intricate swirling designs chiseled into their skin using instruments called uhi made of bones or needles.

This practice subsided with the advent of European colonialism, but it has recently grown in popularity as a way to show cultural heritage or as a symbol of Māori activism. They are reminders of the rich culture and ethnic pride still thriving in Māori communities.

Māori man with tā moko markings on his face.