Monday, June 13, 2022

Tattoos anyone?

Nope, sorry, not going to do it.

Yes, I know it is tradition, yes I know that it can be beautiful, and meaningful and a rite of passage, but just not for me.


The Marquesian people are well known for their tattoos. The designs are unique to the Marquesas Islands but the practice was banned by the missionaries in the 1800's. It wasn't until the 1980`s that the Marquesians started reclaiming their heritage, and now the tattoos are seen as a rite of passage and a symbol of pride for their culture. The tattoos range from a small cuff around the arm, to full body, face included. Nuku Hiva even has a tattoo artist school where the skills and traditions are passed to the next generation.  

Marquesian tattoos are very geometric,  and are designed to tell a story of significance to the owner of the tattoo. We were fortunate enough to be able to attend Nuku Hiva's Patutiki Festival. Patutiki is the name of the local group promoting and teaching the tattoos.

At the festival were booths set up demonstrating wood carving and teaching about the design tattoos.

At every celebration the poles of the tents are decorated with braided palms, and at the fancier events such as this one extra flowers are added.

Tables were set up for people to work on designs.

With design sheets taped to the tables for ideas and explanations both in French and Marquesian.

And if you needed more inspiration there was a book for you to peruse. Notice that this book is Volume II, part one. No shortage of images.

Another option for designs was available, there was an entire area full of tattoo artists and people getting tattoos.

The man singing in this video was both entertaining the crowd and getting ready to accompany the dancers coming up soon. As the camera pans across the area you can see all of the tables with the people getting tattoos. These tables had people all day for three days. People sitting and getting tattoos on their arms and people lying down and getting tattoos on their backs and legs. 

The final entertainment for each evening was the dancing. The difference between the way the men danced and the women danced was striking 

The dancing by the women was soft and sensual and welcoming.

And then there were the men...

Very aggressive with lots of threatening sounds and movements. Extremely Physical and powerful.

And seeing the blend of them together was uniquely interesting. The call and answer in the two different tones and emotions.

This final one was interesting with the interplay of the very graceful woman and the man she was dancing with. Note her fully tattooed legs.

However, for me, the highlight of the evening was an unintended joy. A small boy was dancing along the sidelines and began to enter the central area. The lead dancer, who had been yelling his story and making very intimidating gestures as part of the dance incorporated into it all picking up the boy, taking him over to the drummer who was obviously his father.

The dad tipped the drum to allow the boy to play along. It was a wonderful juxtaposition of power and tenderness.

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