In the traditional Maori world, the moko, or facial or body tattoo, was a sign of great mana and status. Male warriors wore elaborate tattoos on their faces and bodies; women took more delicate chin tattoos. After almost dying out in the twentieth century, Maori tattooing is now experiencing a powerful revival, with many young Maori wearing the moko as a spectacular gesture of racial pride. Mau Moko is probably the most magnificent book ever produced about the moko, from pre-European times to the present day. It examines the use of tattooing by traditional and contemporary Maori and links it to other aspects of Maori culture. Gender issues are considered along with tattooing techniques both old and new. The book features case studies of modern Maori who have made a personal decision to be tattooed; the role and status of the tattooers; exploitation of the moko in popular culture around the world by figures such as rock singers and football players.
In a field that is often has a souvenir or touristy feel to it, this is an overdue contribution.
It is a very well presented, scholarly work, which presents a surprising range of information. It is not the least bit generic, and spends some time stressing the importance of and covering the often dynamic differences in style and method between different areas/iwi. It also goes into depth with traditional methods, their revival, and their significance today. A significant amount of what is presented also seems to reflect new research.
There is the occasional typographical area, and I would also like to have seen more about non-Maori who wear moko, and the relevance that this has. However this is a well-presented, fascinating, and well-researched book. I would particularly recommend it to other Pakeha, as it gives insight into the general significance of Taha Maori in New Zealand today.