Among the most intriguing aspects of Pacific life is the "Tattoo Culture." As I mentioned on the Tribute page in the Rarotonga section, the iconography in Pacific tatoos is much like the images that I have "doodled" throughout my life. The consequence of first encountering the tattoo culture is that I came back able to assign aesthetic value to those images that I have created most of my life. Images that I had never thought of as "part of my art" until having this experience.

As with much of this trip, it was the Maori tattooist Derek Lardelli that stood out at this festival. In the Maori language a tattoo is called a "Moko." Though frowned upon in much of the post-colonial Pacific society, the wearing of tattoos has seen a resurgance in recent years. While traditionally used as a form of identification by its practioners "tohunga ta moko" (priestly experts), today the Moko is worn as a symbol of pride in their Maori heritage. The art is thought to have a Polynesian origin.

The gentleman pictured below is in his 40's and told me he began his Moko when he was 14. It is not complete, as eventually his ears and upper lip will also be tattooed.

I met the young woman pictured below, Raewyne Te-Arao Gray, at a dance club in Anse Vata early in the trip. She is Maori and was a member of the same dance group as Kepa, Te Mataarae I Orehu. The bravery and pride that she displayed as she danced with the group were carried over to the tattoo table.

Ricardo Hernandez © 1992

My First Tattoo