Maori man with full moko tattoo
Maori man with full moko tattoo
Role of Tattoo
Tattoo Stories

Skin Stories: The Art and Culture of Polynesian Tattoo

Maori man with face moko in cafe.

From UrbanFaerie:

I got my first tat in December of 2001 after the WORST year of my life. I had dealt with career difficulties, an eating disorder, recovering from s/i tendencies, and the break up from hell. I had always wanted a tattoo, and had always wanted kanji, but WHAT?? The answer came to me and my first tat was the kanji for "Strength" at the base of my spine —very simple, black line, with a teal blue fill.

My second tattoo was on a whim. I went with a friend as moral support for hers. She got a shooting star near her hipbone. I ended up customizing a realistic frog flash to become the "Frog Prince". He's about the size of a golden dollar and I'll never regret him. All the men that led up to him… YES... but not my frog prince. My current guy, who just might be my knight, can hardly wait to kiss it when I see him at West Point.

My third and fourth... well, the third started as a kanji, got it in Venice at a place that was PICTURED in the documentary. It got messed up, but it was the kanji for "beautiful" right between my shoulder blades. A gentleman who reads the language stopped me in store to read it to me. Its in case I ever "forget" ;) Turns out it got done off center — don't know HOW he missed my spine but it was missed — and the white fill that had been GORGEOUS was done TOO HARD and my skin peeled OFF!! OWWW.

Almost a year later, I went to the "Asylum" in Venice (also pictured!) and J fixed me up great. I have colored in "Beautiful" a gorgeous pink, and surrounded it with FREE HAND cherry blossoms and a lavender fill that looks sponged. It’s absolutely gorgeous, ethereal even. It's about the size of my palm.

My only regret [is that] my MOTHER is going to KILL ME when I see her in New York in July. My sweetie Ty has a Celtic tribal to reflect his Irish heritage (like ya couldn't tell by the red hair!)

My skin reflects my journey. I plan to add Kamsa, the hand of protection, on my inner left forearm in white and pale gray ink where I used to self-harm — a reminder that I am always protected.

From fizzbin:

After watching the show, I was moved to get a tattoo on my ankle. I had always wanted one, but never knew quite what design to get. I was going through a very difficult time both personally and professionally, and all I really wanted was peace and tranquility rather than the stress and anxiety I was dealing with.

I came across the Chinese symbol for Serenity, and it perfectly captured the essence of what I desired most. It now graces my ankle, and when I see it I am reminded to take a deep breath, to calm down, and to seek serenity over stress.

My "Serenity" kanji is a royal purple, which is a color I love. I doubt I'll get another, but I cherish this one.

From batwhisperer:

I have spent years thinking about getting a tattoo. My thinking on it has evolved from seeing it as an adornment of bikers to a beautiful art form with a very noble history. But being that it is a permanent thing, I had to be sure of what it was going to be and that I would not regret it later (removal is not an option- if you're thinking you can get it removed later, you shouldn't get it at all).

I found my perfect tattoo in the Lord's Prayer in ancient Aramaic script. I'm not born again or anything, this prayer, in its original form and language, has much meaning to me. On my 38th birthday I went in and had myself tattooed from nape of neck to mid-back. It's beautiful.

It feels like it’s always been a part of me. Watching "Skin Stories" confirmed for me that I was meant to do this. It was not a frivolous endeavor but an expression of my personal faith and spirituality. It also tends to leave fundamentalist Christians speechless when they are informed what it is!:)

I am very happy with my tattoo... and no, it won't be my last.

From jujube:

Watching this show made me think of my culturally meaningful tattoo. My parents are Deaf, and I have an abstract version of the "I Love You" hand sign tattooed on my lower back. It's something that reminds me that even though I am hearing, I belong to a unique culture that stems from a beautiful language.

From RoyalNavyPyrate:

I happen to be a Traditional, square-rig Sailor. Not too long ago, I went on a holiday to Aotearoa, (New Zealand), and immediately became awed and intrigued by the Beautiful Maori culture. Being a Pakeha, and being true to the Tradition of Captain James Cook's men, I decided to return home with a beautiful Maori moko inspired Tattoo that I researched myself. I've been sporting it now for three years.

In the year of 2000, I signed on as crew of a Barque that was sailing around the world and became overwhelmingly intoxicated by the exquisite Polynesians and their various forms of Tattooing. I have since been honored to sport tattoos from Aotearoa, Tahiti, The Cook Islands, and (a non-Polynesian) Bali. My Tattoo from Rarotonga (Cook Islands), tells the history of my trip around the world up until that precise moment.

I am anxiously awaiting the next time I am able to go to Polynesia and have my genealogy proudly displayed about me in the form of a Traditional Polynesian tattoo.

From MrsAllnut:

I met my husband in Air Force technical training school. It was love at first sight. He asked me to marry him after a short 4-weeks courtship. A week before the wedding, I realized the price of a ring was far beyond our means. Not one to accept defeat he suggested taking the few dollars he had and getting matching tattoos, as a sort of permanent reminder to each other of our wedding vows. It must have been love, because I agreed to be inked and linked for life.

We both went for it, a pink rose on my left shoulder and a red rose on his, the left side being where we would eventually wear our rings. A few days later, my shoulder still throbbing, he had the audacity to show up with a pair of rings and an engagement ring. I nearly dumped him right there but he so earnestly explained that the rings might go missing, but the tattoo was forever.

It's been 18 years, and I still get a kick out of seeing that tattoo on my shoulder. He plans on adding three rosebuds, one for each of our children, to his rose, but my next one will be a set of aviator's wings and an anchor, to symbolize the fact that when I maintain the home front, I give wings to everyone in our family. I need to work up the nerve first!