We have been thinking for awhile that we would like to get a Polynesian tattoo once we had completed the major South Pacific crossing. We aren't necessarily tattoo people but we really wanted something original and significant to mark this major milestone in our lives. Well WE GOT IT!!!
We found a reputable shop in Papette, Tahiti called Mana'o Tattoo (www.manaotattoo.com). The owner actually won the Best Tribal Tattoo gold award at the iron and ink competition for 2008. They also had pictures of when they had tattooed UB40 band members. We knew the deciding factors would be how comfortable we felt in the shop and with the artist and we had a check on both fronts. We asked for appointments for Graham, myself and Amelia. YUP, Amelia had her heart set on a beautiful Polynesian dolphin around her ankle bone. At this point though the story turns sad. The owner let us know that although we may have seen other children with tattoo's he would not tattoo children. He told us that as they grow the tattoo would become distorted. He said that many artists will just do it for the money but that he would not. This is when the quiet tears began streaming down her face. Broke my heart. She had our permission which she worked so hard to get but here was clear logic telling her not a good idea. She totally understood but it had been something she had been dreaming of and speaking of daily for so long it was a heart break. She has decided she will someday get that dolphin to signify this moment in her life.
Yesterday Graham and I went into town on our own and arrived at the shop at about 9:30. We each had a creative session with the artist. Of course I had Graham go first :-). Graham said that he wanted his tattoo to represent the fact that we are now shellbacks, his children, his wife, the ocean, and the voyage. The artist sketched out his ideas and Graham and him worked through revisions until he was happy. The next step was transferring the sketch to tattoo transfer paper and then sticking it on to use as a stencil for the actual tattoo. I watched as the needle pierced Graham's skin for the first time and not even a flicker of pain on his face. What a man! He didn't watch the work getting done but he was able to hold a conversation all the while. It took about 1 1/2 hours to complete. It turned out so great. The outside had the four points of the compass encased in the ocean waves. The inside is a turtle representing not only a shellback but also as per Polynesian art only the King gets tattooed with a turtle representing power. The left and right front feet of the turtle are the symbol for boy and girl representing Amelia and Alex and the larger female symbol is on the turtles back representing me. (LOL....how appropriate eh!) It is perfect.
I was up next. I had decided to get a tattoo band around my finger. I told the artist that I wanted the tattoo to represent my strength as a mother, my family unit of four, my husband as my rock and my visionary opening our minds to the direction we have taken. He laughed when he heard all these things and in his broken English told me we only had a bit of space. I went back out to the waiting room and he prepared his area for me. He called me in and said, "Ok, lets do this". I asked if he was going to first sketch out the design. He said he would draw it on my finger and if I liked it then we would do it for real. I chose to have the tattoo done on my wedding ring finger. I haven't wore my real ring for the past few years and I liked the idea of having something there. I was shocked once he was done drawing that everything I asked for was represented. He let me know that the band could only go around half way because if it is on the back it would wear off. On each side he ended the tattoo with two shark teeth which represent strength. In the middle he did a symmetrical symbol with four corners representing our family of four. Next he did the male symbol in the middle representing Graham with a directional arrow pointing forward. I LOVE IT. Oh and it look cool to boot! ha. I am so happy that for years to come I will look down and have this constant reminder of this amazing journey we have undertaken. Oh I forgot to mention the actual tattooing.....I placed my hand on a saran wrapped covered stool with a light shining on it. The artist got out his smallest finest needle. He said he was going to tattoo slowly since there wasn't a lot of room for correction. He said that the skin on the side for the sharks teeth would be the area that it hurt the most. I was in my frame of mind of, "I am woman hear me roar", so there was no way I was going to flinch. I did brilliantly and to be totally honest it hurt way less than I thought it would.
We got home and the kids raced out on deck and jumped around excitedly waiting for us to uncover our art. Down below we did the big reveal. They absolutely LOVED them. OMG's could be heard throughout the anchorage.
I can be found now at any given moment in the day smiling to myself each time I notice the tattoo.
|Tattoos in Tahiti|