The Symbolic Identity of the Marquesan Tattoo

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The Polynesian Tribal Arm and Chest Tattoo incorporate a variety of traditional tattoo symbols.

In the traditional Polynesian society, tattooing is a clothing, a language, a symbol of power and a claim to fame. It is a way to show a distinction between the Polynesians, marking their social importance, their rank, their family membership or clan, origin “geographic”, their courage and strength. This social mark registered in the skin served as a kind of map identity to the individual.

A fundamental aspect of tattooing in Polynesia is its sacredness. The indelible work, unalterably written into their skin, testifies of their origin, their rank and their heroism. The image of the tattoo is a social passport, a barrier against evil and an admission into the world beyond.

In the Marquesas, the body could be fully covered with tattoos, including the face. Marquesan patterns have a style particularly geometric. To distinguish the Marquesan tattoo from the Tahitian tattoo, the face is never tattooed. The most common forms of Marquesan tattoo are abstract geometric (circles, crescents, rectangles) and figurative (animals, plants) tattooed on their arms, legs and shoulders. The buttocks can be completely covered with ink during the rite passage of the adolescent to adult.

The Spine Tribal Tattoo Design

The Spine Tribal Tattoo Design.

The Marquesan tattoo is very present today, unlike the Tahitian tattooing and it is a mandatory practice from the age of 12 for girls and 14 for boys. Girls begin earlier because they endure the pain of the tattoo comb. They are tattooed at the buttocks with black ink which signifies that they are suitable for marriage.

Polynesian Tribal Shoulder Tattoos for Men

Polynesian Tribal Shoulder Tattoos for Men

The Marquesan tattoo originated from the Island of Ua Pu in the Marquesas. The Marquesan tattoo enjoys an international prestige by the wealth of motifs and story around them. The art of the Marquesan tattoo is now mostly aesthetic, sometimes in the minds of tattoo artists with ancient beliefs resurfacing as superstitions.

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Maori Stomach Tattoo for Women

One of the steps taken, especially in the art world, was to enable an art exhibition that will focus on the theme of the tattoo. The first exposure relating tattoo with the art world was the Pierced Hearts and True Love at the Drawing Center in Soho, New York in the 1999 Body Art Exhibition. In 2005, an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Marquesan Tattoo.

Shoulder Tribal Turtle Tattoo for Men

Shoulder Tribal Turtle Tattoo for Men

Adorning the World was held. These exhibitions held both the tattoo and its artistic value, but always from a non-Western perspective and considering more from an anthropological focus that uses art as a method of communication. Thus the tattoo lives a double assessment both by art experts and those who associate it with crime.

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Tribal Humpback Whale Tattoo Design

Tribal Humpback Whale Tattoo Design

Karl von den Steinen, the German author of important anthropological work, who contributed to the art of the Marquesas, describes in detail the Marquesan designs and their place in the body. But the meaning of the designs is not clearly mentioned. In a way, it had to decipher this ethnological study to try to find the meanings. Steinen’s book remains a mine of information and major reference work for those who do not repel a work of ethnology.

The Traditional Pacific Islander Tattoo Design covers the top half of the wearer’s arm and extends onto his chest and back.

The Traditional Pacific Islander Tattoo Design covers the top half of the wearer’s arm and extends onto his chest and back.

The method used to determine the meaning of the symbols is linguistics. This is done by finding the words related to tattoo designs on the main Marquesan language and particularly its significance in Marquesan myths. Therefore, the symbolism of the designs is based on its deep Marquesan roots. The symbolism of a design has some subjectivity and a different meaning from one individual to another.

Half Back Tattoo Design with Cool Symbols

Half Back Tattoo Design with Cool Symbols

The graphic style has great influence on the “spirit” of the design. Similarly, the artist’s spirit has great influence on its design. So, for example, a lizard in tribal style drawn by an amateur artist to hard rock will not have the same symbolism as a lizard by a Marquesan artist at the bottom of the valley.

Traditional Polynesian Tattoo Design

Traditional Polynesian Tattoo Design

Hindu Tattoo Design for Men

Hindu Tattoo Design for Men

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Maori Foot Tattoo Design for Women

Maori Foot Tattoo Design for Women

Samoan Ray Tattoo

Samoan Ray Tattoo

Marquesan full leg tattoo for women

Marquesan full leg tattoo for women

Marquesan Half Sleeve Tattoo Design

Marquesan Half Sleeve Tattoo Design

Maori Tattoos with Mysterious Maori Symbols

Maori Tattoos with Mysterious Maori Symbols

Polynesian Sleeve Tattoo Design

Polynesian Sleeve Tattoo Design

Ornate Maori Tattoo with spirals and tribal shapes designs

Ornate Maori Tattoo with spirals and tribal shapes designs

Marquesan Full Sleeve Tattoo Design

Marquesan Full Sleeve Tattoo Design

Polynesian Tribal Shoulder Tattoo

Polynesian Tribal Shoulder Tattoo

Polynesian Bear's Paw Tattoo for Women

Polynesian Bear’s Paw Tattoo for Women

marquesan tattoo for women

Stingray Tattoos representing traits and attributes of the stingray

Polynesian Ray back tattoo

Polynesian Ray back tattoo

Polynesian Sleeves Tattoo Design

Polynesian Sleeves Tattoo Design

Polynesian Arm Tattoo Design

Polynesian Arm Tattoo Design

Polynesian Tribal Tattoo with Bold Patterns

Polynesian Tribal Tattoo with Bold Patterns

Polynesian Half Sleeve Tattoo for Men

Polynesian Half Sleeve Tattoo for Men

Polynesian Rib Cage Tattoo Design

Polynesian Rib Cage Tattoo Design

Marquesan Breast Tattoo Design

Marquesan Breast Tattoo Design

Marquesan Half Sleeve Tattoo Design

Marquesan Half Sleeve Tattoo Design

Marquesan Breast Tattoo Design

Maori Arm Tattoo Design

Maori Arm Tattoo Design

Full Sleeve Arm Tribal Tattoos for Men

Full Sleeve Arm Tribal Tattoos for Men

Marquesan Tree Frog Tattoo Design

Marquesan Tree Frog Tattoo Design

Marquesan Inner Forearm Tattoo Design

Marquesan Inner Forearm Tattoo Design

Marquesan Half Sleeve Tattoo Design for Women

Marquesan Half Sleeve Tattoo Design for Women

Polynesian Conjoined Calf Tattoo Design

Polynesian Conjoined Calf Tattoo Design

Maori Fern Tattoo with Koru Swirls

Maori Fern Tattoo with Koru Swirls

Maori Bold Black Calf Tattoo Design

Maori Bold Black Calf Tattoo Design

Marquesan Half Sleeve Tattoo Design for Men

Marquesan Half Sleeve Tattoo Design for Men

Black Polynesian Sun Tattoo on Right Leg

Black Polynesian Sun Tattoo on Right Leg

Hawaiian Tribal Sleeve Tattoo Design

Hawaiian Tribal Sleeve Tattoo Design

Hawaiian Tribal Sleeve Tattoo Design

Hawaiian Tribal Sleeve Tattoo Design

Back Tattoo inspired by Marquesan Motif

Back Tattoo inspired by Marquesan Motif

Polynesian Tribal Shoulder Tattoos for Men

Polynesian Tribal Shoulder Tattoos for Men

Shoulder Tribal Turtle Tattoo for Men

Shoulder Tribal Turtle Tattoo for Men