Fashion and custom required among the Maoris that their women should also receive certain marks of moko; and these portraits fairly well indicate the extent to which this was practised. The lips and chin were the chief objects of attention to the artist in moko; and the idea seems to have been that the woman's lips should be not only full but blue—a combination which was regarded as the height of feminine beauty. It seems quite clear that a red lip was looked on as a reproach or disfigurement. The moko on the lips consisted of horizontal lines, as with the men.
Sydney Parkinson, already referred to as the artist with Captain Cook, says: “Of the women, their lips were in general stained of a blue colour, and several of them were scratched all over their faces as if it had been done with needles or pins.”
And at another part of the coast he speaks of one woman who in particular was very curiously tattooed.
Rutherford (1816–26) says: “The women had a figure worked on the chin resembling an inverted crown; the inside of the lips was also tattooed, the figures on the lips appearing of a blue
colour. They had also a mark on each side of the mouth as well as on the forehead and on each side of the nose.”
(1807) remarks on a small spiral figure on each side
Fig. 28.—Curious tattooing on a girl's forehead.
Voyages from an original drawing in the British Museum, Additional Manuscripts Room.)
of the chin a semicircular figure over each eyebrow, and two or three lines on each lip. Major Cruise
, in a work published in 1824, states that the females were slightly tattooed upon the upper lip, centre of chin, and above the eyebrows, and that some had a few lines on their limbs. He mentions that a woman was seen at Shukehanga
, up from the south, whose breast was marked with lines resembling the links of a chain; and that a female prisoner of Krokos
was tattooed almost as much as a man. In confirmation of this. I may mention here that
speaks of some women in the South Island as being tattooed on the face like men. But this was very rare. Darwin
(1835) tells us how certain native girls had remarked to missionaries' wives: “We really must have a few lines on our lips, else when we grow old our lips will shrivel up and we shall be ugly.”
This last statement closely represents the object of moko
Fig. 29.—Usual tattooing on a Maori woman.
among the women; and a feeble parallel suggests itself in the painless patches with which European belles of the last century used to decorate their faces. I say “painless” for reasons which with regard to moko will be made apparent. Women of all
Fig. 30.—A Maori girl, showing two lines over upper lip, three on lower lip,
and ornament on chin.
countries will submit to much inconvenience and some pain in order to satisfy the recognised standard of fashion for the time being; but it needs something like heroism to submit to the torture of moko, slight as the tattooing was in the case of most
Fig. 31.—An old woman, well marked.
(From a drawing by the Author.)
native women in New Zealand. I remember seeing in 1865 a white woman, the wife of a native; her undecorated face showed that she had not undergone the painful process. A portrait of her husband, a sailor named Anaru, is sketched from life.1
Though custom permitted of only a small quantity of moko on the women's faces, there was no law against the elaboration of design on the rest of their persons, thighs and breast, with a few smaller marks on the different parts of the body as well. Mr. Savage
says he believes children were not operated on by the artist until they were eight or ten years of age; but once begun, small moko strokes were frequently made all over their bodies. Sir Walter Buller
, K.C.B., tells me that it was the
Fig. 32.—Tattooed young.
universal rule amongst the Maori never to commence moko until the subject was adult. Further growth would no doubt tend to distort the curved lines. As a matter of fact, Sir Walter
says that in the whole course of his experience he has never seen a Maori boy or girl with a tattooed face. The famous
French traveller D'Urville
says on this subject: “When I went with Tuai to visit the village of Taowera, the chief Tuao showed
Fig. 35.—The same, lip and chin.
me his wife while she was in the act of receiving the completion of her moko on the shoulders. Half of her back was already
incised with deeply cut designs, similar to those which adorned the faces of Coro-Coro's relatives, and a female slave was engaged
Fig. 37.—Curious tattooing on a Maori woman.
(From a drawing by the Author.)
Fig. 38.—Half-caste girl.
(From a drawing by the Author.)
in decorating the other side of the back with designs of like taste. The unfortunate woman was lying on her chest, and
seemed to be suffering greatly, while the blood gushed forth abundantly from her shoulders. Still she did not even utter a sigh, and looked at me merrily with the greatest composure,
Fig. 39.—From a wooden effigy in the British Museum, showing thigh tattooing on a woman. The figure was presented by Sir A. W. Franks, K. C. B.
as did also the woman who was operating upon her. Tuao himself seemed to glory in the new honour his wife was receiving by these decorations.”
And I find Mr. Tregear says that “in ‘olden days’ women were tattooed on the back part of the leg or calf.” I shall have occasion to refer to the above account given by D'Urville in connection with the fact that in this instance the artist in moko was a woman.
In Mr. J. C. Bidwell
's Rambles in New Zealand
Fig. 40.—Right upper-lip unfinished.
(From a drawing by the Author.)
the following remarks on this singular aspect of the subject are to be found. He says: “While crossing one creek where we had to wade above half a mile, a native told me that one of the women was tattooed behind like the men. I asked her if it was the case, and she said yes, and if I would wait and let her get on a bit ahead she would show me, which she
accordingly did, to my great edification. It is a very rare thing for women to be tattooed anywhere but about the lips and chin; and this was quite a curiosity. I used to think it very ornamental in the men, but what its use can be in a woman I cannot imagine, as they are always covered. The women are often quite covered with blue marks which might be called
Fig. 41.—Half-caste and child.
tattooing in England; it is of the same kind as sailors are so fond of pricking into their arms; but it is a totally different thing to the elaborate engraving on a New Zealander's face or thigh; inasmuch as in one case the skin is cut and remains in the same pattern as the stains, and in the other the marks do not at all affect the smoothness of the skin. I have seen the arms and bodies of the New Zealand women so covered with these powerful blue marks that they looked as if they had on them a tight-fitting figured chintz dress.”
And I will conclude my extracts from the travellers who
have noticed moko in New Zealand on women by a reference to Mr. Kerry Nicholls
's (1884) mention of an albino woman in New Zealand, with light flaxen hair, pink eyes, and white complexion, with her lips marked in the ordinary manner, and also to a reference on the part of the same authority to a
Fig. 42.—An Albino woman tattooed.
custom among the Maori women at Lake Taupo, which he says he had not noticed anywhere else. This consisted of tattooing the legs as well as the lips, in thin cross lines of a dark blue colour.
Another valuable piece of evidence is furnished by Mr. William Colenso. He says that the operator began on both sexes at about the age of puberty. In the female the tattooing was confined to the lips, chin, and space between the eyes and a little up the forehead, and on the back part of the leg from the heel to the calf. The last three mentioned tattooings are, he says, always indicative of rank. The women also were often irregularly marked on the hands, arms, breast, and face with small crosses,
short lines, and dots. He says he saw very few women with faces tattooed like a man's; and these belonged to southern tribes, some of whom had a very different style of tattooing long ago, such as is shown in Plate XIII. in the quarto edition of Captain Cook's Voyages.
There was another form of marking among the Maori women which requires some mention. They are always the chief mourners at funerals. At every pause in their wailings and mournful cadence, the custom was in days gone by that they should gash their faces, necks, arms, and bodies with sharp shells until they streamed with blood; the narahu
or moko-dye was sometimes applied to the wounds, and the stains commemorated the
Fig. 43.—A sketch from Angas's book (1846) dyed lacerations at a mourning.
scenes at which the women assisted, the gashes making a sort of moko to perpetuate the signs of their grief. In Angas
's book, The New Zealanders Illustrated
(1846), there is a portrait of a woman whose skin has been thus gashed and dyed, and it
is noticeable that she shows the more regular moko of women, the lower lip being carved and stained. Maning
, to whom I have already referred, also gives a description of the laceration, in his Old New Zealand.
He says: “One old woman had marked herself most conspicuously with a piece of volcanic glass, drawing the spouting blood. She had scored her forehead and cheeks before I came…. I noticed that the younger women,
Fig. 44.—Portrait of a Maori girl.
although they screamed as loud, did not cut so deep as the old women, especially about the face.”
There can be no doubt that in some of these wild scenes of mourning the cutting was done with considerable method and regularity, so as to make the sears ornamental rather than otherwise.
It should be added that an authority, A. W. Buckland, thinks the tattooed mark on the chin almost always denotes
marriage. Of the present time (1896) it may be said that many Maori women still decorate themselves and that it suits them well.
Fig. 45.—Usual tattooing: From a photograph.