Tattoos is a great way to communicate who you are just by simply inking a story on your arm. Dating far back as 5,000 years ago. Among them the Polynesians a group of islanders who are remembered by their elaborate designs and engraved history in their tattoo practices. The process to get this traditional tattoo involves various steps, meanings behind their tattoos and symbols and the culture surrounding it.
In ancient Samoa theres a group of six to eight men who get their tattoo by the highly respected tattoo artist. The artist uses an ink-ladden comb or sharp bones attracted to turtle shells which are attached to sticks. Typically males get a traditional tattoo from the waist to the knees covering the back and both legs. The person being tattooed choses their main design while a series of geometric patterns surround the main symbol as embellishments. They rhythmically tap the link into the skin following guidelines.
“This usually takes until dusk or until the men couldn’t bear the pain much longer.” (Polynesian Tattoo 5). It could take to 4 months just to finish the tattoo itself and up to a year for the tattoo to stop swelling and show the craftsmanship. For the tattooed skin to heal they wash and massage area in the ocean to keep infections at bay.
There are many meanings behind tattoos such as their rank in the town, sexuality maturity, culture and hereditary positions. Designs could range from shark teeth (protection, guidance, adaptability) to the tiki (fertility, antestor guardian and protection). Even the placement on the body signifies importance for the tattoos.
The head represents unity between heaven (Rangi), spirituality and wisdom, torso is the connection between both Rangi and Papi while below signifies earth (Papi) who’s courage, independence, and life’s energy. All these traits are believed to help guide a person through life and be the walking connection between heaven and earth.
The individuals receiving their tattoos aren’t the only ones going through a transformation. The family isn’t aloud to shave, bathe, groom the garden until they’re completely done. Just as is life has paused for them. Once the individual completed the ritual the family resumes their activities and throws a celebratory party in honor of the individual passing from child to man or womanhood.
The tattoo artist is called Tafuga and their position is also hereditary taking years to master. The apprentice serves the Tafuga by wiping blood from the tattooed man practicing in the sand for years, and watching the Tafuga’s work on others in hopes to receive the same level of craftsmanship along with status.