The Art of the Polynesian Tattoo
When twenty members of a Silicon Valley company came for a celebratory visit to Bora Bora, they wanted to experience everything that the island has to offer—including a commemorative body tattoo.
We arranged a host of activities to suit their interests. One group took out jet skis while another chartered a catamaran and went snorkelling with sharks and manta rays. In the evening the whole party took the catamaran for a sunset cruise, complete with Champagne, sushi, and live music from a local Polynesian band. There was shopping for black pearls, spa treatments for the world-weary, deep-sea fishing for the sea lovers, and a last-night private dinner for everyone—featuring freshly caught fish cooked up by our chef at Otemanu Beach. The whole group capped off dinner with drinks in the Sunset Bar.
For the group’s commemorative body stamp, we brought legendary local tattoo artist Matatiki in from the main island, Taiohae Bay, to perform his artistry on the adventurous members of the group. Matatiki is a serious craftsman who works in black ink using traditional designs of abstract patterns, symbols of divinity and figurative renderings of humans and animals.
Traditionally, Polynesians tattoo themselves as a way to identify their personal and tribal histories. Following tradition, Matatiki bears tattoos on only one side of his face, neck and back. He refers to tattoos as the mark of membership, and says that Polynesians believe that tattoos connect people to their ancestral traditions while forming protective barriers against evil. The meticulous designs on his body tell of his family and his native island of Marquesas.
Our newly tattooed friends from Silicon Valley chose more universal designs, like manta rays. Nonetheless, they left Bora Bora with a tangible memory of their shared experience—along with a treasure trove of photographs, souvenirs and stories.