Description of Figure/Doll

Wahine Maori doll from New Zealand. Maori people are the “original” people of New Zealand, descendants of Polynesians originating from southeast Asia. Wahine is the Maori word for woman or wife. The Maori dressed in different designs according to tribe and their rank within the tribe. This doll is wearing a cloak (kahu huruhuru) made of bird feathers. Her headband and bodice are made of woven material. Her skirt is piupiu, a form of grass that is native to New Zealand. She has a green pendant, called a hei-tiki. She has a chin tattoo (moko) on her face.  Men in her tribe would generally have much more extensive tattoos on their faces. The doll is made of plastic, with a rubber head.

New Zealand

Location: Oceania

Capital: Wellington

Main language: English

Currency: New Zealand dollar

Figure/Doll

Construction: plastic, grass

Height in Centimeters: 36

Height in Inches: 14

Body Art in New Zealand: Native Maori People and Ta Moko Tattoos

Reading Level: 5.45

My name is Aria, and I live in New Zealand. My country is made up of two main islands—the north and the south. I live in the capital city of Wellington on the north island. New Zealand is off the coast of Australia.

Tonight, I am working on a school report that is due in three days. I am writing about the people who are native to New Zealand, called the Maori people. Luckily my uncle is very active in the Maori community. He is coming over soon to help me with the assignment.

Before talking to Uncle Nikaul, I started the report with history about the Maori people. The Maori were the first settlers in New Zealand.  They arrived by canoe over 1000 years ago. The native Maori people had no written language. Their traditions were handed down orally. They used songs and carvings to tell stories of the past.

In 1642, the first Europeans landed on New Zealand. For the next 200 years, it was used as a European trading route. Then, about 1840, the country became a part of the British Empire.

Although the history of New Zealand is important, I felt my report was getting a bit “boring…”  When my uncle arrived, I thought of a much more interesting approach. Perhaps I could write about the Maori tattoos, called Ta Moko. Since Uncle Nikaul’s face is covered in tattoos, I asked him to explain their meanings.

“The first thing you should realize, Aria,” said Uncle Nikaul, “Is that no two tattoos are exactly alike. That is because the tattoos are designed for each person, based on their family. The left side of my face represents my father’s family. The right side represents my mother.”

“But why do you have so many tattoos on your face?” I asked. “Good question,” he replied. “The head is the most sacred part of the body to Maori people. Therefore, a man will often cover his entire face with symbols. Different parts of the face are used for a man’s rank, profession, marital status, etc. Women usually tattoo only their chin area.”

“Wow! Doesn’t it hurt to get tattoos on your face?”

Uncle Nikaul smiled and replied, “Yes, it certainly does hurt, but not as much as it used to. You see, in earlier times, the tattoos were made by cutting the skin with knives. Then paint made from burnt wood was tapped into the cuts. It would take a long time for the face to heal from each tattoo.”

I grimaced, and he chuckled. “Now we use needle-based machines for tattoos. However, we still maintain the ancient designs and customs.”

It was now past 8 pm or 2000 hours. My uncle realized that I should be getting to bed soon. He knew that I had school and rugby practice the next day. I thanked my uncle. He gave me a big hug and left me with a warm smile. “Aria, I think your report will be great. Although the Maori people are a minority in New Zealand, it is important to understand our heritage.”


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