UNESCO Inscription bid for Polynesia Tattooing

Speaking of Polynesia Tattoos…

More news about Polynesian Tattooing came about this past week on Radio New Zealand. An article stated that there was an outcry in French Polynesia over a reported bid by a French politician keen to inscribe Polynesian tattooing as part of the UNESCO world heritage. The proposal was made by a left-wing member of the European Parliament, Younous Omarjee, who is from the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion.

The Patutiki Association, which promotes traditional tattooing of the Marquesas Islands, said it was impossible to amalgamate the tattooing practices of all Polynesian islands and cultures, which extend from Rapa Nui to Hawaii and New Zealand. It said each island group had developed its own methods, designs and meaning.

The proposal, which was put to the French president, was akin to describing all types of dancing in the region as Polynesian or taking a practice specific to a European country and then labeling it European.

The Association said while it appreciated the thoughts of Mr Omarjee’s party it would prefer if it in future abstained from speaking on behalf of those concerned.


Picture from quazoo.com

A little bit about Polynesian Tattoos…

Tattooing has a long history in the Oceania region, with some of the earliest examples of Polynesian tattoo art showing up more than 2,000 years ago. Each Polynesian culture has its own take on tattoos, from the varied motifs to the tools and techniques. The work is often intricate and deeply meaningful, and it has successfully made the leap into the modern era, where you can see this artwork today across Polynesia. Discovering how these tattoos evolved from ancient history to today’s world is a fascinating journey through cultural traditions and spiritual beliefs.

A few centuries ago, one of the easiest ways to figure out where a Polynesian person came from was to look at their tattoos. Each of the islands of Polynesia had designs that were unique to that area, so you have an easy visual cue to figure out someone’s origins. While better travel options have made this a less tell-tale sign these days as natives move about from island to island, you can still see these touches from the tattoo artists themselves.

Since Polynesia did not have written communication for a significant part of their early Polynesian history, the tattoo also acted as its own type of communication medium. They not only talked about the person’s rank in their culture but also their personality, work and many other personal details such as family ties and unique passions.

The origins of tattooing likely extend back to the Māori civilization, and it seems to have flourished in the “Polynesian Triangle,” which includes the regions of New Zealand, Hawaii, Samoa, Easter Island, and the Cook Islands. It was widely practiced in French Polynesia and reached its developmental peak in the Marquesas Islands, where tattoos are known for vibrant, intricate designs and themes.

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