Moko (Maori face tattoo) Mask by John Collins.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been drawn to Maori design and have wanted to own some Maori sculpture. Last year My wife and I were in Auckland New Zealand on a stop over from a trip to the US and Mexico, so I thought it would be a good time to buy some Maori art.

I had foolishly assumed that buying a Maori wood carving would be simple. Firstly we went to the excellent Auckland Art Gallery to get a general feeling for the quality of traditional Maori art. After a couple of hours at the Art Gallery we went downtown and had a look in the various gift shops and galleries selling Maori carvings.

Chinese people, not born in New Zealand, who didn’t have a clue about what they were selling, owned most of the gift shops. A lot of what was presented to us was crudely carved and very expensive. To add insult to injury, the carvings, as poor as they were, were consistently handled in a very rough manner, further damaging them right before our eyes. Many of the storeowners seemed to be displaying an absolute contempt for the Maori carvings they were selling.

It can be argued that most indigenous art that is for sale, anywhere, tends to be “traditional” in that old designs are copied and there doesn’t seem to be mich room for innovation. In other words, much “native” art tends to be more about skillful craft than artistic expression.

After half a day of depressing traipsing from gift shop to gift shop I was about to give up any hope of buying any Maori art at all. Luckily we stumbled across a very small gallery called “Gallery Pacific“. The gallery’s main window had some local art glass and at first it didn’t catch our eye. Then my wife saw a beautiful Moko (Maori face tattoos) Mask by John Collins, carved from kauri that just knocked our socks off.

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It was so different and so much more interesting than anything else, Maori, we had seen. Inside there were a few even grander and more expressive pieces that were way out of our price range. After much deliberation we bought the Moko mask for three times more than the budget we had allocated for such a purchase.

10 thoughts on “Moko (Maori face tattoo) Mask by John Collins.”

  1. I HAVE MY MY FACE TATTOOED FOR 5 YEARS IT WAS DONE RIGHT PEOPLE WHWNU GET ANY TATTOO THINK BEFORE U INK AND PICK THE RIGHT ARTIST BE PICKY IV BEEN TATIN 10 YERAS MAV WHO TATTOOED ME 13

  2. hi ive always felt a sense of sadness when i see shops selling maori art,and behind the counter is a asian,please nz place maori back ,to explain and share culture with those interested in maori art and culture,when i visited tepapa i was shocked to see indians at the door,i feel maori should and could take a more active role in introduceing the culture,just some thoughts

  3. Stumbled on your blog while net surfing. The mask stikes me as a not just a thing of beauty but a good investment. Quality artwork always stands out. Word of John Collins work is spreading. An artist of note. Thanks for the interesting blog.
    Phil. London

  4. Hello great mask , I purchased one of Johns while in Queenstown . It stands about 450 high and is suspended in a stainless moon and mounted on a large greenstone rock . It is carved both sides and turns within the mount so one day you can appreciate one side and then for a change you can turn stand appreciate the other. If you would like to see a photo please email me at ianpenny@homail.com cheers

  5. Maori is really rich for its art, carvings, moko or any fields of culture. You lucky to have been there. This carved mask is just amazing. Thanks for sharing.

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