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Best Elsdon 1904. The Uhi-Maori or native tattooing instruments. Journal of the Polynesian Society 13: 166-172

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Description of instruments and processes used in tattooing.

Among Tūhoe, māpara is the name applied to the hard, resinous heart-wood of the kahikatea tree:

"When this tree dies and decays, the soft white sap wood soon rots away, leaving the hard mapara, which becomes extremely hard from exposure, and it will often gap a steel axe when chopped across the grain. It splits easily, however, and is often found separated into thin pieces, which are sought after by the natives, and which they form torches of. Many of these kahikatea trees were famous kaihua, i.e., trees on which bird-snares were set in great numbers each season, and which trees were always known by a special name. The māpara of such famed trees was much prized, and the balls of soot obtained from such were known by the name of the tree. Such name would also be applied to the ahi ta moko, that is to the rite or ceremony of tattooing any person, wherein that pigment was used. The mapara of such trees could only be taken by those to whom the trees and land belonged. Any attempt to use such trees, in any way, by a person having no right thereto, would be resented and viewed as a casus belli. The resinous, inner heart of the rimu tree was not used for the above purpose."

Description of preparation of pigment. Fire lit in tunnel and fed with resinous wood, the soot collected on toetoe heads (kākaho) stuck in the tunnel shaft. It was shaken on to a piece of bark cloth (aute) or a closely woven mat.

Among the Tūhoe, where toetoe did not flourish, some prepared fibre of tī was used in place of the kākaho."The soot thus obtained was mixed with the sap of the hinau, or of the mahoe trees, or that of the palm, or of the kāretu grass, or of the kaoho (poroporo) shrub. This process is termed whakataerangi, the sap used being known as wai whakataerangi. The soot is so mixed, kneaded, and formed into balls, which were covered by skins of the tui, or of the kiore..., and then buried in the ground where it would be kept for years."

"The awheto, or so-called vegetable caterpillar, was sometimes burned and used for tattooing on the limbs or body, but the pigment was not black enough to be used for face tattooing. "

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The Uhi-Maori or native tattooing instruments

Best Elsdon
Journal of the Polynesian Society

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12 June 2007
20 June 2020
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