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Moko; or Maori Tattooing


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My main object in this book is to present a series of illustrations of the art of moko or tattooing, as practised by the Maoris. It is fast vanishing, and a record of it by one who has studied the subject for many years may be worth publication. I have learnt all I could of moko in New Zealand, and from the best sources; and such skill as I have as an artist has long been employed in setting down my notes in the form of drawings. Literary skill I cannot claim; but I have collected all I can get in the way of information from numerous authorities, a list of which is appended. My personal experiences during the Maori campaign of 1864–66 and my subsequent inquiries have enabled me to form and express some opinions of my own and to add a little independent matter. But I wish to express my indebtedness to very many writers whose works I have laid under contribution. It is, however, as a means of publishing my drawings, sketches, and photographs that I have put my notes together in the form they now take.

The beautiful arabesques in moko patterns might, I think, page x commend themselves to art students and designers, as well as to students of ethnology and folk lore; for the native artist in moko must be entitled to the credit of great originality and taste in his patterns; and his skill was such as to class him among the world's artists. These designs seem to me to contain a mine of wealth to the modern student.

I have to express my sincere gratitude to many respected friends and acquaintances for kind assistance. I am most indebted to many polite strangers in all parts of the world, curators of museums, and others, upon whom I have intruded, and who have courteously responded to my inquiries and to my appeals for help; and the number of these obligations is so large that I can only make this general acknowledgment of them. In conclusion, I wish again to say that I hope my book will be judged of by the illustrations and not by the letterpress. I began to collect my pictures long ago, when the art of moko was a living one. It is now in a state of decay, and my hope is that such little skill as I have in depicting the old art of moko will be appreciated by those who sympathise with art in whatever form it is presented.

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Two Letters.

The Right Hon. Sir George Grey, K.C.B., to the Author.

7 Park Place,
St. James's, S.W.

3rd August, 1894.

Dear Sir,—I think your illustrations of Maori tattooing are interesting and valuable, as they give with great correctness some of the patterns of Maori tattooing; and the portraits are equally interesting as they give excellent illustrations of the art of “moko” which is rapidly passing away, and will soon be forgotten.

Faithfully yours,

G. Grey

The Right Hon. Sir John Lubbock, Bart., M.P., to the Author.

High Elms,
Farnborough, R.S.O.

1st December, 1894.

Dear Sir,—I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, and shall be happy to see your book on New Zealand tattooing.

It is most important to preserve all evidence of a life which is rapidly disappearing.

I am, yours truly,

John Lubbock.

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