Like any form of artistic expression, traditional Māori tattoos hold a special meaning that is more than skin-deep. In the Māori culture, the art of tattoo is called "Moko," and its aim is to convey messages related with genealogy, beauty, and seasons. In ancient times, a tattoo indicated the bravery of a warrior or the wisdom of a shaman or orator. These tattoos were traditionally applied in the face more than the body. All of these tattoos are unique, as they symbolize the wearer's identity and their family history. Nowadays, tribal tattoo styles like Moko have become increasingly popular. Many men and women feel drawn to their mystical connotations and their peculiar visual effects, so they decide to engrave them in their bodies.
The art of Moko became known during the eighteenth century, when the first European explorers arrived in New Zealand. They were so stunned by the uniform, yet unrepeatable patterns on the skin of Māori tribes that they carried the word and the tattoo itself to the old continent. The concept of wearing a Moko is similar to that of wearing a wooden or stone totem. They symbolize how our hopes, beliefs, and heritage are connected to our spirit. All designs have a traditional base that changes according to the wearer and the part of their culture they wish to accentuate.
Where exactly lies the magic of tribal tattoos? According to Brazilian tattoo artist Brian Gomes, it's shamanic philosophy, the way our physical form reflects our spiritual life: "Tattoos are the ripe fruit of the soul. They are our inner beauty.” It is this ancient belief that Gomes wishes to express through his Neo-Tribal Tattoos. His main inspirations are the Amazonian, Asian, and Arabic cultures. And the concept of sacred geometry also plays an special part.
The artist's endeavor is to make portraits of the soul, not the body. He makes sure he never uses the same design again for anyone; every stroke must be unique. His sources of inspiration may be sacred designs and symbols, but he would never copy them directly. These reinterpretations are meant to protect each person, guide them in life, and always bring good fortune. They are a perfect way to turn the ethereal link between the soul and the Universe into something tangible.
These tattoos mix different tribal styles and create original designs. The main technique involves the use of blackwork or light colors.
Brian Gomes' work is a small proof of the important role that tattoo artists play in the transcendence of ancient art and culture. Ideas from tribal philosophy are not old, for they can enrich our lives' purpose and provide guidance, especially in these tumultuous times.
If you would like to discover more designs from Brian Gomes, you can visit his Instagram page.
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Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia