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A Bibliography of Online Resources for the "Moko; or Maori Tattooing" Project


This bibliography has been compiled to accompany the material collected for the "Moko; or Maori Tattooing" Project. The project looked to digitise Horatio Gordon Robley's Moko; or Maori Tattooing, while also showing an awareness of the issues surrounding the digitisation of Mātauranga Māori and the online representation of ancestral remains. In addition to the Robley text, we have also digitised a number of texts that provide contexts for the practice of Ta Moko and the problem of mokamokai. Others reflect on Robley and his art.

Collected here are access points to other supplementary online resources relating to these topics. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list of online material about these topics, but instead to provide an introduction to them. For an extensive bibliography of published and unpublished material see the bibliography of Walker's thesis, Robley: Te Ropere, 1840–1930.

Ta Moko

Ta Moko refers to the practice of Māori tattooing. There is a wide variety of information available on this subject, both in print and in digital form. Historical accounts of Ta Moko were predominantly written by clergymen and ethnographers who had an interest in the Māori populations that they encountered. Contemporary material is often generated by either academics or practitioners. Occasionally, references find there way into the news, as can be seen in the news articles below.


The creation of mokamokai has been documented, and the meaning behind their creation speculated upon, by many historians. This practice was sometimes laid alongside that of cannibalism, in that the decidely 'un-Christian' treatment of the dead shocked and titillated European readers. The trade in heads also caught the eye of European settlers.

McNab, Robert. "Head Collectors, 1820." In Murihiku: A History of the South Island of New Zealand and the Islands Adjacent and Lying to the South, from 1642 to 1835, 230-34, 1909.

Walsh, Philip. "Maori Preserved Heads." Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand (1894).

Current perspectives on mokamokai generally relate to their repatriation to New Zealand and their identification. Throughout the years, as iwi and the Government took an interest in recovering mokamokai from overseas, there have been news and journal articles relating to these efforts. Who should have custody and what should happen with the heads when they have been returned have also generated a lot of discussion.

For a comprehensive overview of mokamokai and repatriation in the media, there are two paper files (Repatriation and Repatriation of Mokamokai) available for viewing in the Te Aka Matua Library and Information Centre at Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington.

Dewan, Shaila. "Maori Madness." Houston Press, 26 August 1999.

Easton, Paul. "British Return Remains of 46 Maori to Te Papa." The Dominion Post, 24 November 2007.

Hole, Brian. "Playthings for the Foe: The Repatriation of Human Remains in New Zealand." Public Archaeology 6, no. 1 (2007): 5-27.

"Repatriation." Te Papa Tongarewa.

Sciolino, Elaine. "French Debate: Is Maori Head Body Part or Art?" The New York Times, 26 October 2007.

"Working Group on Human Remains: Submission by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa." Te Papa Tongarewa, 2003.

Horatio Gordon Robley

Robley's Moko book elevated him, in the eyes of historians and ethnographers, to an expert in moko and he is frequently quoted in texts about the topic. Because of his standing, his art appears in a wide range of publications and justifies his inclusion in collected biographies of artists.

Platts, Una. "Robley, Major-General Horatio Gordon 1840–1930." In Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists: A Guide & Handbook, 207-8, 1980.

Robley, Horatio Gordon. "Typical Drawing of Moko with Detail Analysed. — Black and White. Size 11⅛″ × 8⅓″."