A visual language for courtship, status and moving into adulthood: How traditional Maori face and body tattoos called Moko describe families and background without words
Striking images depict way of life of Maori people, including their unique method of tattooing the face called ta moko
Called a 'visual language', moko was and is still used for a variety of reasons, including courtship and implying rank
Images taken by the woman believed to be New Zealand's first ever professional photographer, Elizabeth Pulman
Collection of photos taken by Pulman during the mid to late 19th century sell for £11,000 at auction in Shropshire
These striking photos depict just how far the indigenous people of New Zealand were willing to go to honour their heritage and traditions.
Images taken by the woman believed to be New Zealand's first ever professional photographer, Elizabeth Pulman, demonstrate the traditional method used by the Maori people to 'tattoo' their face and bodies, called ta moko.
Unlike the majority of tattoos sported by various celebrities and common folk in the modern day, in which the skin is punctured with ink, permanent marking by the Maori was carried out by carving the skin using a mallet and chisel made from albatross bone, and ink pigment from Carui gum and dye from other vegetation.
Called a 'visual language', moko was and is still used for a variety of reasons, including courtship, implying status and marking the important milestone of moving from childhood to adulthood.
The specific symbols usually tell the story of the wearer's background and family. As well as signalling rank, it was used in traditional times to make a Maori more attractive to the opposite sex.
Ta Moko was worn by both sexes, and was traditionally applied to the face and buttocks of men, and to the chin, lips and shoulders of women.
There were no set patterns and the meaning of the ta moko was dependent on its placement on the face, with the left signifying the father's history and the right side the mother's history.
As these black and white images show, the skin was left with grooves as opposed to the smooth surface common with the tattoos of today.
In recent times there has been a resurgence in the practice of 'chiseling' tattoos on, with pop star Rihanna even going through with the procedure when she got a hand tattoo while touring in New Zealand in 2013.
Several of the historic 19th-century photos taken by Pulman have now been sold at auction in Shropshire this week, and such was the interest in them that a group from the Maori Society of London travelled to the auction house to bless the lots.
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