Understanding Maori Art

The language of art is universal. One of the cultures that have maintained art as part of their social interaction is the Maoris. They use naturally available items such as bones, wood, soil, shells, beads, feathers and flowers to create pieces of art. Even though things have evolved and modern technology is being used to make art, there are still many artists who maintain usage of traditional materials.

Traditional Maori Art

One of the defining features in Maori Art is the prominent use of colours red, white and black. Red is used as a representation of prestige, status and power (mana). That is why it is always used in buildings and other structures around the formal place where elders would gather to have discussions (marae) and their valued canoes (waka)

Contemporary Maori Art

What makes Maori Art stand out is how they have managed to weave in together the traditional art with modernity to create unique contemporary art. Some of the new and talented artists are now combining the traditional and a little bit of modernity to create unique contemporary Maori art. If you want to check out some samples of contemporary Maori art, you should visit Toi Maori Aotearoa which will awaken your belief that there is a new generation of Maori artists.

Types of Maori Art

A majority of details that make up art in New Zealand was heavily borrowed from the Maoris. Since New Zealand is geographically isolated from many countries, the artists would move to different parts of the world, hence spreading Maori art to different places.

Some of the early traces of the art are found in charcoal drawings that are estimated to be as old as 800 years. These can be found on rock shelters in the South Island, stretching through to North Otago.

The visual art of the Maoris is in four forms: tattooing, weaving, carving, and painting.

  • Carvings

Even though some people have found Maori carvings to be https://www.maori.com/artextreme, there is no denying that they are courageous and true when it comes to expressing themselves in the form of art. Their carvings are done on stones, trees, and bones.

  • Tattooing (Ta moko)

Maoris believe in body art and tattooing is another form of art where they use a chisel to do artistic impressions of different items. The men can tattoo their faces, thighs, buttocks, arms, backs and other parts of the body. For the women, the tattooing is done on the chin and lips only. In the 19th century, tattooing started declining due to the spread of Christianity but it is being revived by young people now.

  • Weaving

Another popular form of art was weaving where they would use it to make decorative items, storage facilities, clothing, and bags. It was mostly done by women although men also participate especially in ceremonial weaving.

  • Painting

The oldest form of art in the Maori culture is painting where they would do pieces of art on rocks and dry pieces of plants such as on the inside of a bark. Most of their paintings have been replicated by modern artists.

Maori Cultural Renaissance

During the 20th century, there was a rise of revivals being done by different people to boost traditional Maori art. This was mainly championed by Apirana Ngata and some of the signs of these revivals is the establishment of a school in Roturua to teach and learn Maori arts.

The spread of this culture across the world has also elevated the status of Maori artists as more people started looking for their original work. Artists such as Ralph Hotere have been made popular due to their push for Maori culture. Others include Manos Nathan, Robyn Kahukiwa, Derek Lardelli, and Lisa Reihana.

The National Art Gallery of New Zealand is always streaming with people from different parts of the world who want to see the different aspects of Maori culture. Even with the digital age, most of their ancient art has remained unchanged. Most of the work was done in portrait form but they have also done spectacular landscape work especially in recent years.