Got our Polynesian Stamps

When the first explorers arrived on the Polynesian islands they were fascinated by the ‘paintings’ the locals had all over their bodies under the skin. The sailors soon got these body decorations too and the Polynesian word ‘tatau’ (or ‘tatu’ in the Marquesas) entered the European vocabulary as tattoo. The missionaries later discouraged tattoos (along with all other forms of traditional culture), but in the revival of the Polynesian culture during the last decades the old art of tatau also became popular again. Today almost all Polynesians here in Fr. Polyn. wear them proudly and after looking at this beautiful form of art for more than two years we could no longer resist and went to a popular tattoo studio here in Papeete.

Tagaloa Tattoo (check out www.tagaloatattoo.com) has a good reputation among the locals, lots of prizes from competitions decorate the walls, up to four artists work simultaneously on extensive tattoos in the traditional Tahitian and Marquesian style. We got appointments with Kalio (the boss) who asked about our lives, considered our suggested motives and then started drawing directly on the skin, altering the lines several times before adding the intricate symbols–including voyage, the sea, the sun, courage, strength, protection and loyalty. The actual needlework was then quickly done and we’re finally fully ‘papeetisised’ (that’s what boats are called here after importation…).

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