Major General Horatio Gordon Robley with his collection of tattooed Maori heads, 1895

Major-General Horatio Gordon Robley was a British Army officer and artist who served in New Zealand during the New Zealand Land Wars in the 1860s. He was interested in ethnography and was a talented painter as well as influenced by the art of tattooing. He wrote the book Maori Tattooing which was published in 1896.

After his return to England he created a remarkable collection of 35 mokomokai (Māori tattooed heads). In 1908 he offered £1,000 to the New Zealand government; However, his offer was rejected. Later, with the exception of the five heads, the collection was purchased by the Natural History Museum, New York for £1,250.

Moko face tattoos were traditional in Māori culture until the mid-19th century, when their use began to disappear, although there has been some revival since the late 20th century. In pre-European Māori culture, they denoted high social status.

There were usually only men who had a full moko on their face, although upper-class women often had a moko on their lips and chin. Moko tattoos serve as an identification of the connection between a person and their ancestors.

When a moko dies, often the head is preserved. The brain and eyes were removed, all holes were sealed with flax fiber and glue.

The head was then boiled or steamed in an oven and then sun-dried for several days. It was then treated with shark oil. Such preserved heads, called mokomokai, would be placed in elaborately carved boxes by their families and brought out only for sacred ceremonies.

The heads of enemy chiefs killed in battle were also preserved; These mokomokai, considered trophies of war, would be displayed and mocked at the mare. They were important in diplomatic negotiations between the warring tribes, the return and exchange of the Mokomokai being a necessary precondition for peace.

In the early 19th century, with the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand, tribes in contact with European sailors, traders and settlers had access to firearms, giving them a military advantage over their neighbors. This led to the Muscat Wars, when other tribes also became desperate to acquire firearms, if only to defend themselves.

It was during this period of social instability that mokomokai became commercial merchandise that could be sold as curios, artifacts, and museum specimens, fetched high prices in Europe and America, and were sold as firearms and ammunition. could have been changed.

The demand for firearms was such that tribes raided their neighbors to gain more heads to trade for them. He tattooed slaves and prisoners (though with meaningless motifs instead of actual mokos) to provide heads for command.

The peak years of trade in Mokomokai were from 1820 to 1831 (after that market saturation reduced demand for firearms).

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.