Photo: Moko Traditional Maori Face or Body Tattoo – New Zealand

Tā moko is a body and face marking or tattoo by Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.

While in the Bay of Islands on New Zealand’s North Island last January we met Brent Kerehona who was midway getting his moko and allowed us to take this photo and use it here, as long as one of us was in the shot. The girl is my lovely niece who was visiting us at the time.


I found another example on the Tourism New Zealand site, free to use:

Te moko

Moko (tattoos) were applied to the face and body. In men it could cover the whole face. The patterns on each area of the face communicated specific things, such as social standing, and family history.
Photo Credit: James Heremaia

Read more about it on Wikipedia or in this book.

Have you ever seen a moko? Have you been to New Zealand?

Photo: Rainbow Falls in Keri Keri, New Zealand
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  1. Elise Fallson says

    I’ve seen this before but never in real life. And that was really nice of him to let you take that picture. I’ve found that more often than not, if you ask nicely, people will allow you to take pictures. I remember asking to take pictures in an open market in France and the guy there was really nice about it and even thanked me for asking first. I’d love to go to New Zealand someday…

  2. Patricia says

    No to both questions. That was very nice of that gentleman to allow his picture to be posted . Very interesting tradition.

  3. Karly says

    My aunt and uncle lived in NZ for a year when my uncle had a contracted job near Wellington, so I’m sure they took the chance to meet some Maori. Pretty cool stuff!

    • Rhonda Albom says

      We didn’t see too many tattoos when we were in the states a few months ago, but maybe I am so used to seeing them I just didn’t notice.

  4. says

    I live in Lewisham in south London and I occasionally see a guy who had his face tattooed with a spider’s web when he was in his teens. I’ve spoken to him, and he seems a nice guy, though he did tell me he wishes he’d never had his face tattooed. It has prevented him from getting a job or finding a girlfriend since he did it as a punk in 1976. In short, it ruined his life.

    Brent’s mojo is on a different level and it does look very majestic. Even so, I bet he’s kicking himself for not getting a spider’s web!

    • says

      Kia Ora Rhonda,

      I’ve just been told about your site recently, and so, had a look at the photo and the accompanying comments.

      Thank you for your kind words and your positive portrayal of Ta Moko, it is always great to have others show an interest and appreciation for another’s cultural practice/s.

      @Jim – As a school teacher, when explaining what my moko is to some students, I have jokingly told them that as I walked out to the car, I walked it a spiders-web and desperately tried to get it off (whilst flailing my arms about furiously) and said that it you get spider-web on your skin and don’t remove it in time, it leaves lines or marks. Funny, some believe it (until I explain it later) and others laugh it off as a joke 😉

      It was a pleasure to meet you and your husband and please pass on my regards to your niece as well.

      • Rhonda Albom says

        Thanks Brent, and thanks again for letting me use the photo. I had sent you an email with post back when I ran it, not sure why you didn’t see it.

  5. says

    I’ve never been to New Zealand, but I had a teacher from there in high school. She was super fun and cool.
    My entry is #44. Come by and vote for us?

  6. says

    I’ve never been to New Zealand but would love to visit someday. Interesting artwork. He wears it well! Thanks for stopping by! Hope you had a nice holiday.

  7. says

    Just a heads up, the native people of New Zealand are Māori, not Mauri. Saw tons of the Moko tattoos while I was there for a year, it is fascinating. I had a Māori tattoo designed for myself for my shoulder. Each symbol means something different and are used to describe past, present, and future for that person, as well as family history and even property sometimes!

    • Rhonda Albom says

      So embarrassed about my typo. Thanks for catching it. Wish my proofreader had caught it. (I would fire him, but we’re married.)
      Thanks for the added information. Would love to see a photo of your tattoo.

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