30    Jul 20100 comments

Indigenous Art and Genealogy – The Maori

Have you ever wondered how indigenous cultures managed to keep track of their ancestry in the past?

I mean, computers and the Internet are incredibly modern inventions and, despite its invention around 105 AD, paper only really became wide-spread thanks to new technologies developed in the 1400s.

For one indigenous culture, the Maori people of New Zealand, geneaology and family tradition are an incredibly important part of society. So important, in fact, that they are recorded on their bodies through the art of Ta Moko or tattoos traditionally carved into the skin using special albatross bone chisels.

Below are some historical images of Moko:

It is said that receiving Moko “constituted an important milestone between childhood and adulthood” and that apart from outlining genealogy Moko also signified one's social status.

While for many people these tattoos look very similar, tribal leaders are apparently able to immediately know someone’s heritage with a quick glance at a Moko.

Even more interestingly, I recently read that traditionally each side of the Moko refers to a different side of the family. Typically the left side of the face shows the maternal genealogy, while the right shows the paternal, though this may vary from tribe to tribe.

If you're interested in finding out more about Moko, CLICK HERE to watch a fascinating video documentary which follows a young Maori man as he goes down the path of receiving his Moko.

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