New Zealand’s Maori Cultural Art Influence


New Zealand’s indigenous people were different from Australia’s in every way.  The Aboriginal people were native to Australia and are perhaps one of the oldest cultures on Earth at present time.  New Zealand was settled by Polynesian explorers from islands such as Tonga and as far away as Malaysia.  They brought with them traditions of religion, tribal hierarchy, and customs that separate them from Australia’s natives.  Over time they have adapted and assimilated into Western society much better and seamlessly than the Aboriginis.

Above is a wood carving that shows a very defined style used in Maori art.  They use broad lines in patterns to decorate items such as totems, beams in buildings, vessels, boats, and tattoos on themselves.  The curved lines are usually symmetrical, spaced evenly apart and are copied into a similar style throughout the island.  I bought a shirt with the art, saw many people with tattoos of it on their bodies and faces (even women), and saw that New Zealand embraced this style into their signage.





They were very adept at using negative as well as positive space in their designs.  Some of the purpose of the tattoos was to make the warriors appear more fierce and creature-like to psyche out their enemies.  They accentuated this fierceness with the awful faces, grunts and aggressive behavior when approaching strangers to their island.


Our tour guide was thrilled to see a painting of one her Maori ancestors at the Museum in Rotorua.  It was her Grandmother.  A famous English artist painted many Maori people in a series of portraits that were displayed there.  We happened to share his last name.





He paid tribute to them and to their culture with these portraits.


In the public gardens near the museum there were many public art displays using the art.  Below are other places in which they incorporated them.IMG_3340

I liked the clean, broad look of these patterns and would like to incorporate them into some future works of my own.  It’s so interesting how different cultures in the world create such unique marks, although I do see some similarity in Ukrainian Egg art and Celtic Art with these patterns.  I can’t imagine that this part of the world would have been exposed to either of those cultures at the time they created these works.

One Commment

  1. Marty Jacobson says:

    Very nice display and explanations.

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