Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It is Tattoo Time!

Yes, that is right!

Throughout the Pacific Islands, our yachty friends have been getting tattoos. Some did it as soon as we reached the Marquesas in French Polynesia, while others got theirs in Tonga or Fiji. Dennis had made up his mind before we left the USA that he was getting a tattoo. The only question was when and where – which island and where on the body? In addition, my question was: how large?
Heading to the tattoo studio for an interview.

The traditional Maori meeting house.
We had many discussions at sea of what not to get in terms of design and the size of it, as well as where it should be on him. He made many threats of large tattoos of the Maori tongue on his chest or upper arm.
Of course, in the Maori culture, facial tattoos are a sign of recognition for accomplishments and the bearer carries the burden of having to live up to that status for his or her whole life.

Main street of the Living Village.
A bit of history regarding Maori tattooing: The name for the stylistic and ceremonial facial tattooing of earlier years is moko. Women had moko on the lips and chin, while high-ranking men had their faces completely covered, as well as their buttocks and thighs. The greater the status one had achieved, the more complex the tattoo, covering more area.

It was somewhat like wearing all of your awards on your personal surface for the world to see, but it meant that you must continue to maintain that status through your deeds and actions. The burden was heavy. Not much facial tattoo of this nature is done today. Although, the trend to bring back old traditions is gathering momentum.

Dennis with Jason.
Dennis had made up his mind that the tattoo would be a traditional Maori tattoo, so it was back to Rotorua! We had been given the name of a tattoo artist there so he made an appointment with Jason Phillips. That is his western name so it doesn’t sound too Maori-ish.

Jason in his traditional attire.
Jason first interviews his client to get a feeling of what is important in the person’s life. Then he creates a drawing of the design which represents what he has ascertained from the client. The next step is to sit down with him while he explains the meanings on all of the aspects within the design.

The client has the opportunity for some input and tweaking.  For the Maori, it is not a “go in and pick out a design” procedure. It is a very spiritual experience and it is much more than just body art. It is very meaningful and symbolic in their culture.

Various musical instruments from wood and gourds.
I enjoyed Jason’s collection of musical instruments made from natural items such as gourds, his “antique” weapons and carved pieces that had been in his family for years and his artwork that was on the walls. We met his son and daughter; the son was his “prep” assistant and when his work was done, he was dismissed to go to the bridge and swim.

The preparation begins.

Jason created a wonderful design that captured everything Dennis had shared in the interview. It was even more meaningful when he explained the significance of each detail and how it related to Dennis’ life based on what he had shared. Jason’s drawings are amazing. Done by hand without the aid of a computer, many – especially the facial ones – are absolutely symmetrical. He does them in ink. We bought a couple drawings of his traditional designs.

Children swimming and diving for coins ...
We both liked Jason’s design and felt that he had really understood Dennis. Because our five children and five grandchildren are so important to him, he asked that they be represented in some way. Jason added the five curved lines in each of three areas: five for our children and five more for our five grandchildren. The extra five lines were added for future grandchildren or the next generation.

The next steps included preparing the area by shaving away the hair and cleansing it. While Dennis was lying face down on the table, Jason chanted a Maori prayer before beginning the procedure. The way Jason approached the tattooing process was very spiritual and ritualistic.

after they have jumped off this bridge into the thermal pool.
Once the tattooing actually began, I did what a girl’s got to do: go shopping! Actually, I could not stand to watch after a couple of minutes so I made myself scarce! He said it would take about an hour so I was out of there. I wandered around the Whakarewarewa Thermal Living Village and watched them cook in the geothermal steam. And, of course, I bought a few little things!
This is what is behind the stores on the main street!
The Whakarewarewa Thermal Living Village was founded in pre-European times. Today there is some modernization of the buildings and businesses in the village, but the people of the Whakarewarewa Maori tribe live in the area and run the businesses there. You can walk around the village to observe craftsmen, a cultural performance and have a hangi meal. Guides share the history, culture and life style of these Maori people. The children spend their fun time jumping off the bridge at the entrance into one of the many thermal pools. They ask visitors to toss coins into the water so they can dive for them.
There are many of these thermal pit areas.

I returned to Jason’s studio just as he was finishing and got to see the tattoo. Sort of – it was covered with a wrap for a few hours so I had to wait to see the final product. It looked like it would be somewhat painful, but Dennis said there were only a couple of times that it bothered him. I am not tough enough to try it!

They place the food into the steam and it cooks fast!

As we were leaving the tattoo studio, Jason played a beautiful song on a gourd instrument which had a few strategically placed holes in it. He used some of the holes by covering them with his fingers much like a flute to control the sounds. Instead of blowing into it like one does on a flute, he blew air through one nostril while holding the other nostril closed with his thumb. The instrument produced a soft melodic sound. It was lovely and moving. Then it was time to say in Maori, E noho ra or, as I like to say instead of goodbye, “Until our wakes cross again.”

So here it is: the design and the placement – plus the meaning of it. In the words of the artist:

MATAU (Fish Hook)
MATAU (Fish Hook)
“I felt this was the most appropriate symbol for your journey. It symbolizes one who has a deep affinity with the ocean. Significantly the Pacific at the moment. It also represents SAFETY and GUIDANCE in particular to your journey over WATER. (Your world travel, you are a sailor.) Other meanings are STRENGTH (so to help you physically and spiritually) and ABUNDANCE of love, good health, enjoyment, happiness, etc.

THE SOUTHERN CROSS or the “ANCHOR” STARS – a star cluster important to Navigators of old – lets you know you are in the SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE. (The Southern Cross is really special for Dennis.)

^^^^^ = Mountains pays respect to MOTHER EARTH, the land of your birth and the lands you travel to.

~~~~  = Water lines THE OCEAN, but also a symbol of VITALITY, healing, good health and cleansing.

))))))) = Good vibes and WAVES, also for happiness and smooth sailing.

@@   =  Partnership, connection, and love of you and Sherry.

YYYY  =  Sail so you always have favorable wind for safe journeys.”

Immediately afterwards

NOTE: There is no easy way to show the actual lines using the keyboard, so look at the design for the Partnership mark that is represented by the curls in the top area and the shape of the sail is on the right side with what looks like a couple of feathers in it. Actually, the Maori wakas (war canoes) have the feathers on a cord flying behind them.

The tattoo requires care for the first week by keeping an antibiotic cream on it and keeping it clean and dry. The redness went away after a few days and the hair is starting to grow back. Oh, that’s right, you need to know where it is on him! Take a look…
The real deal!





Here are a few examples of Jason Phillip's artwork. We highly recommend him as a tattoo artist.

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