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  • Writer's pictureTe Rangitu Netana


Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Te Rangitu Netana has practiced traditional Ta Moko for 30 years, producing beautiful, spiritual and intricate designs through both the modern machine and the traditional chisel method of tattooing.

Facial tattooing is a huge part of Maori culture as the head is believed to be the most sacred part of the body. The elaborate tattoo designs embellished onto the face are regarded as marks of high status within Maori communities. As with all Ta Moko, each tattoo design is unique to the individual, conveying information about status, rank, ancestry and abilities. Not only does this have great spiritual meaning, it also allows for delicate art work to be designed, creating a unique experience for all involved.

With a face inked with a complex design, Te Rangitu Netana’s tattooed face bears the story of his life and ancestry.

Since moving to the UK, Te Rangitu Netana is working as a traditional tattoo artist in London, Colchester, Essex and Brighton. Producing elaborate tribal tattoos, he is able to create beautiful artwork in-keeping with his own heritage and time-honoured Maori designs

The responsibility of Ta Moko

The long history of Ta Moko, or Maori face and body tattooing, has been maintained over generations of Maori tribes in New Zealand. Each tattoo is unique to the wearer, and the ceremony and meaning of Ta Moko is passed through generations of Maori tribes. Ta Moko originates from a love story, which focuses on the cultural beginnings of the practice, and is deeply embedded in the culture of New Zealand.

It is the story of a love affair between a young man, Mataoroa, and Niwareka, a princess of the underworld and daughter of a tohunga ta moko. Niwareka wanted to explore the world above and there she met Mataoroa. They fell in love and were married. Knowledge of ta moko did not exist in the world, therefore Mataoroa simply wore designs painted on his body, rather than being chiselled.

One day Mataoroa mistreated Niwareka, so she returned to her father in the underworld. Seeking her forgiveness, Mataoroa pursued his wife into the underworld, enduring many trials and obstacles to reach her. But when he finally found her, the paint on his face was smeared from his efforts. Upon seeing this, Niwareka’s people, who had chiselled faces and permanent designs, laughed at him.

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