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Pacific culture leaves indelible mark on many visitors

Oct 28th, 2011 | By | Category: Diversity, Featured Article, Features, News


Memories may be fading but the ink will not for many visitors to the Real New Zealand Festival in Wellington during the Rugby World Cup.

Traditional dancers performed and contemporary bands played while Pacific Tattoo committed ink to customers’ skin in Wellington Town Hall during the festival.

Florence Faumuinā-Aiono, whose company Spacific PR managed the event, was pleased with that Pacific Islanders got to share their vibrant music, dance and art on display.

“The vibe of the village was family focussed and fan-inspired,” she says .

One of the artists involved was tattooist Fred Vaoliko who thinks the Pacific Artist Village was a positive way of promoting the various island cultures.

VILLAGE TATTOOIST: Fred Vaoliko tatting a customer at the Pacific Art Village. PHOTO: Abby Brown.

“I think anything that raises awareness and gives not only tourists but New Zealanders an accurate insight into Maori and Pacific culture is to be applauded and from my perspective supported,” Says Mr Vaoliko

Mr Vaoliko believes the mainstream perception of Pacific Islanders is becoming increasingly positive.

“We have highly educated and driven Pacific Islanders who are leaders in our communities in all facets of life from politics to sport and are role models for the next generation, and hopefully in future, who knows, maybe a Pacific or Maori Prime minister.”

Despite this improving perception of Pacific Islanders, he is aware of the media’s fluctuating perception of ethnicity.

“It’s funny because when a Pacific Islander or Maori does something good, he or she is a proud kiwi, when it’s something not so good they’re Maori or Samoan, or Tongan.”

Tattoing Pacific patterns onto customers is considered an honour by Mr Vaoliko.

He considers it the ultimate statement of trust a person can make to allow a tattooist to tattoo them.

“As a Pacific Island tattooist, it’s a little bit more precious because the designs I’m putting on people’s skin, while being my contemporary interpretation, are a reflection of patterns and tattoo themes that in some cases may be thousands of years old,” he says.

BACK TATT: A tattoo by Fred Vaoliko. PHOTO: Supplied

“So to have a person come to me to be marked with these ancient patterns is an honour.”

He says Polynesian tattoos are seen as a way of reconnecting to the customer’s culture.

“It’s almost a badge of honour for some to have this visual connection to their roots.”

He is extremely careful when it comes to Maori tattoo because Maori patterns may have a subtle difference in meaning and different patterns represent different iwis.

He does a lot of research beforehand and even informs customers of ta moko artists who are specialists.

His own first tattoo is extremely precious to him as it is in memory of  his younger sister.

“Prior to her death she had asked me to design a tattoo that my brother, sister and I could get together, I always said I’d do it but just never found the time to do it.

“Then my sister died and I hadn’t done anything, so I decided that I would design a tattoo that I could get in memory of her.”

Tim Hunt tattooed the design onto him and was so impressed that he offered to teach him to tattoo.

“Tim was impressed by my design and told me that if he ever opened his own shop he would be more than happy to teach me.”

A couple of years passed and then he kept bumping into Mr Hunt a lot and started to think it was a sign and that maybe he should take up the offer.

“I gave him a call and he agreed, so I started going out to the shop on Saturdays to learn and watch.

Since joining Mr Hunt at Pacific Tattoo his personal collection has grown from an original half sleeve.

“I have a few tattoos, mostly self inflicted.”

For Mr Hunt, his tattoos gave him the confidence to feel comfortable in his own skin .

“It’s the whole experience of getting the tattoo, and knowing people are judging you without knowing you,” he says.

“I know who I am and I know the what the patterns signify”

Tim Hunt got involved with tattooing 12 years ago, when he helped out at a friend’s Auckland studio.

He got his first tattoo at that same time by Sua Sulu’ape Paulo, a highly respected Pacfic tattooist in South Auckland.

“I couldn’t pass up the amazing offer,” says Mr Hunt.

Mr Paulo started teaching Mr Hunt about tattooing, until he died a year later.

Mr Hunt then went to America to learn about tattooing and has travelled to many Pacific Islands.

BONE COMB: A traditional bone comb such as these should only be used in the correct cultural context says Tim Hunt. PHOTO: Supplied.

He does not offer the traditional service in his shop because he uses contemporary equipment for his contemporary designs.

He believes the traditional tools should only be used within the correct cultural context, not within a tattoo parlour and definitely not to be used as a tourist gimmick.

Pacific Tattoo studio is located at 10 Beach Road, Paekakariki.


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is a Whitireia Journalism graduate working at Presstige Community Newspapers for the Northern Courier and Petone Herald.
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