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Memento Mori : Memento Maori – moko and memory

Abstract

Moko patterns, mau moko, “wearing ink” is often explained as an act of remembrance, a symbol of honour or success, of grieving or loss. Memento mori, remembering the dead and remembrance of death, pervades the Maori world, and is profoundly expressed in customary practice – haehae, upoko tuhi, and ta moko. These embodied and visceral experiences are described in waiata tangi, in whai korero, in moteatea, in the traditional context, and graphically recorded on the living flesh in our contemporary world. Mau moko celebrates identity, so modern memorial ornamentation mourns and reflects on this in ‘memento mori’; and also reinforces and engages reality in the correspondent notion of ‘memento Maori’; an assertion that claims dominion and understanding across generations, across time, across space

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