Polynesian symbolism, tattoos from the southsea and native marquesian culture

 polynesian tattoo, tattoo designs, meanings and their origin


 

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All tattoomotives:

In alphabetical order. Use the following links, to jump to the desired symbol in the list.

patternlist

aniata
fe
fatina
hiku-atu
hope-vehine
ipu

kake
kutupa
kea
keheu
kohe-ta
kofati

matahoata
niho-peata
opea
otipi
paka
papua

pepehipu
pii kohe
poepoe
pohu
poo
puhi

toi
vai'o'kena
vau

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Just choose a bodypart to get to the more detailed overview.

front

side

rear

man

chest/
arms:

 

legs/
hip:

 


woman

body

hands

face/ears

legs:

front

side

rear


 

 

 

 

 

 

aniata
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Aniata means clouded sky. Ani means sky and ata means picture, shadow, twilight or cloud.

Its another variation of the pohurow, in which the feet were left out and their arms were melt together. Sometimes this pattern is used in bows or circles. As a circle it can be the base for the compass (fe).





 

     

fe
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Fe is a rosette and is often translated with compass. Usually it is tattoed on bodybulges like shoulder or knee, because these spots are traditionally tatooed with round patterns.

     

The compass has got his roots in a row of torsos and heads from etuamanikins (1), which are projected onto the bulge and therewith form the rounding.

This motive looks a little like star or flowerpatterns, which are quite popular in the Polynesian region, too. An example is this bloom of a pumpkin (2), which is formed the same way.


 

fatina
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Fatina means fragment or splint and comes from fati to burst. This pattern is always tattooed in the popliteal space. Its an ornament with four parts, which are decorated with several borderpatterns.


hiku-atu
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Hiku-atu or hikuhiku-atu are bonitotails (bonito = tuna) and they developed from the niho-peata pattern. But how became the shark a tuna? Its simple. Two rows of niho-peata are faced with each other, either with contact of the vertex or not. This pattern has got a lot of differet variations, in which the vertexes are connected with several lines.
 

The ornament is part of many other patterns for example of the kohe-ta or poepoe. Otherwise these bonitotails were used like the rows of teeth (niho-peata) as ornaments in the borders of the black areas.

 

hope-vehine
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Hope vehine develops from etuapatterns. It means hip of a woman but there is no reason for this name. Hope is backside or interior and vehine is woman or wife.

In this row you can see how the extremities developed to rectangles and how head and torso degenarate. If this degeneration goes on just a little crossfigure remains, but this is tattooed very seldom.

 

ipu
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The translation is cup or dish. Often this ornament is also called calabasheye, because it looks a bit like eyes and usually calabashes (little pumkins) were used as cubs for meals.

Ipus are usually tattoed at the inner side of the arms and armpits of men and women. Somes women were these tattoos on there hands, too.

 

kake
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Kake-pattern is always formed in a bow. The curve is plain up to right angled. Another characteristic are the ends, which are usually etuavariations (see tattoos from religion). Furthermore there is often a centerline and strong borderlines.

Kake means rising or ascent. Origin of this motive is the tikifigure. It developed from the arm of the figure.

 

kutupa/ poriri
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This tattoo has got the name kneeface. It follows the tradition to decorate bodybulges with round patterns. It develops from two kakebows, which have been devided.

If the face is tattooed on the calf, its called poriri (calfface). In this case kakebows are the origin, too.

 

kea
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This pattern is one of the etua (see tikivariations). Its closely related to the pohu, which is a tikivariation, too.

The translation of kea is turtoise and the keaetua is a precursor of the hope-vehine, thats why the two names are used synonymously. The turoise makes sense if you put together two keas. The manikins torsos form the turoise shell.

 

 



 

keheu
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This motive is the black region on shoulders and upper arm next to the hibiscusstripe (toi). Keheu means wings and you see that this rtanslation makes sense, because its really looking like wings. The keheu is rarely tattooed with some exrta ornaments at the borders but very often there is a circle or rosettetattoo (fe), which is completely surrounded by the keheu.

 

kohe-ta
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This is the biggest pattern in Marquesian art of tattoo, which can be seen as one unit. Kohe-ta means bambooknife. Another translation could be shortsword in its sheath. Parts of the whole pattern are: Handle, belt, sheath and protective cap.




 

 


The handles meet on the back at the spine and are the nothing else than two more poo. Often we can find some more patterns within these areas. The belt is a stripe with ornaments (kofati). And the cap is a matahoate. Between belt and cap there is the area of the sheath, which is a black rectangle often with some patterns (i.e. hiku-atu).

 

kofati
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This pattern is one of the tattoos, which come from ealier handcrafts like windings and engravements and so on. Basically this ornament contains several angles, which can be arranged in diferent ways (see tattoos from handcraft)

The translation makes sense if you keep in mind that this pattern is build out of angles. Kofati means buckled or broken.

 

matahoata
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This ornament has an important relevance in Marquesian culture. Mata means face or eye and hoata is translated with clear, bright or crescent. So theres the possible translation moonface. There are many places for this tattoo on the whole body in different variations.
 

This pattern has got its roots in etuamotives, like many other ornaments as I described earlier.

 

niho-peata
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This is a classical motive of Marquesian tattoopatterns. It can be tattooed on nearly all bodyparts. Often it is part of black stripes. There its tattoed borderareas.
Niho-peata can be translated with sharktooth what is comprehensible if you look at this pattern. Niho means tooth and peata is a genus of sharks. A related genus is called mako or mano thats the reason why this pattern is named different if another genus is chosen for example on Hawaii its sometimes called niho mano or nio mango.


There are different types of this ornament: completely black (see above), empty triangles (1) or hatched (2,3). There are also different ararngements: Standing or hanging (1) or winded triangles (3). Often the Marquesians call this pattern a niho (row of teeth).

 

opea
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This motive is used to fill empty spaces. It contains a triangle and kakebows and look a bit like a cell. Sometimes this pattern is called ma kopeka ma means light of the burning nut and kopeka means twisted. A translations could be blowing flame.

 

otipi
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Otipi is the name of the whole ornament on the bottom, composed of vau, matahoata and aniata. The Word means flat layer or plate.

 

paka
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If you look at the legs auf tattooed Marquesians you can see a characteristic partition in zigzag. The paka are the resulting triangles. Paka means peace or better: fragment. The atachments: iti, oto, nui, muo and puha just descrive the kind and positions of these areas.


Iti little | oto inner | nui big |
muo of the knee | puha of the thigh
 

papua
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This pattern also developed from the armbow of the tikifigure.

Papua means enclosure. If the two armbows come together in further development the ornament ipu is formed. Men and women wear this tatto and often its used in rows or better bands.

 

pepehipu
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This term labels the black areas on the chest, which reaches from the top to the bottom and alternates with other patterns.

The word comes from pepehi, what means hammering or knocking. This Meaning makes sense if we keep in mind how these tattoos were made. And in this case the tuhuna hammers until the area is all black.

 

pii kohe
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This area is the same like the other black areas (poo). Its decorated with borderornaments, too. The simple difference is that it is not a rectangle anymore, because it lies directly next to the bambooknife (kohe-ta). The knife is also the reason for this name. Pii kohe just means near by the kohe-ta. Thus Pii kohe is the last area on the back, which borders on the bambooknife.
 

poepoe
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Poepoe is a circular decoration often worn by men on arm or calf. The pattern itself is build out of ther parts like bonitotiails in different variations.

The tattoo is named after poepoe a decoration with feathers an hair, whichs is worn at the same places. The translation of the word is chaplet

 

pohu
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This motive is named after a sagahero from Marquesian culture: Pohu-Makaioma. It is one of the etuamanikins, which are discussed more detailed at another place.

Pohu was the son of a couple, which had born just freaks before. But Pohu was very lazy. There was a controversy and thats why he went away. On his way he became a hero. In many villages were fightinggames and everytime he took part he won.

The pattern can be found standing alone, as borderornament or in rows, which are origin for new patterns again.

 

poo
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These are also black areas just like pepehipu in the chest. Poo means part or piece. Like the other black areas it has tecorated borders. The seperated parts have got own names depending on their position.

- poo kaki (neckpiece): The omoplate and upperarm

- poo paofifi (shoulderpiece): From omoplate to armpit

- poo kaokao (rippiece): Can reach the hibiscusstripe in the front

 

puhi
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Puhi is a sea eel. The tattoo shows the eel with lashes. We can find the puhi on mens arms the there it is often crossed. Women wear this tattoo usually on their thighs.


toi
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The whole area from neck to hip, in which pepehipu another ornaments alternate, is called toi. The word means

Pulling and is also used as a word for hibiscusbark. So toi means stripe. On this chest we can see two of these stripes.

 

vai'o'kena
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This tattoo is called bath of kena. Kena is another sagahero in Marquesian culture.

The pattern is related with the hope-vehine. It contains four bows (hope-vehine only got two bows), which are widened so that there are some spaces. These spaces can be sehn as the bath or basin. In this bath sits kena, completely reduced to a rhomb-shaped head and short neck. This ornament can be found in variations and rows, too.



 

vau
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The Vau is a fish its the white ray. We can see its mouth, eye, fin and spike.

This tattoo is a naturalistic one. The vau is only tattooed at this place and its everytime in the upper half of the ornament.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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