Where in the World is Connie? travel blog

Polynesian tattoos

Rapa Nui tattoo - the original!!

Tito, the tattoo man

My friends Karine & Manu, showing off their new tattoos

Close up of Karine & Manu's new tattoos

My friend Lynne, feeling her pain!!

Close up of Lynne's new tattoo

Connie showing off her new tattoo

Close up of my new tattoo!


Body tattooing has always been a very important part of the Polynesian culture. Historically, beyond an undoubtedly aesthetic effect, the tattoo was a language with which it was possible to know a lot about a person and his social status by what was written on his body. The tradition of tattooing has remained strongly in place on Rapa Nui today.

I can't say I've ever wanted a tattoo in the past. I've often admired them on others, but have basically escaped two cycles of tattoo trendiness while remaining ink-free. To be honest, in recent years I've sometimes felt like a real pariah from society for NOT having a tattoo!

But here on Rapa Nui, where tattooing is such a natural part of the culture and everyone has one or more tattoos of interesting Polynesian design, getting a tattoo seemed the right thing to do. Oh oh, I think I just heard a shocked and horrified gasp from my sisters!

I visited the tattoo man of greatest notoriety on the island - Tito - a number of times. In fact, he probably thought I was stalking him! I watched as he worked very professionally and artistically on other people's skin. I poured through his books and picked out a design and body location.

I planned on getting it done just a day or two before leaving - you're not supposed to have sun or seasalt exposure on a new tattoo - but of course I kept changing my departure date so had to keep delaying getting my tattoo. I did, at one time, wonder if these delay tactics were happening for a reason. But in actual fact, once made, my decision to get a Rapa Nui tattoo didn't waver.

I mentioned my desire to get a tattoo to other tourists at my hotel and can say, without a doubt, that I am instrumental in the beautiful Polynesian tattoos that are now adorning the body parts of 4 different people from my hotel ... including my girlfriend Lynne. Bloody hell, watching the pained expression on her face and hearing her curse as she got her tattoo almost turned me off of getting one!

The weird thing is, as long as I was staying on Rapa Nui I couldn't get my tattoo because, while there, it was virtually impossible to stay out of the sun and sea. Fine by me. But the moment I got my tattoo, it made the fact that I was leaving seem, well, "real", and I didn't much care for that feeling. My stay there was over...I was leaving ... shit!

But, alas, the day arrived ... I WAS actually leaving ... I WASN'T changing my ticket again ... it was time to suck it up and get my tattoo.

I visited Tito's salon one last time and, strangely enough, walked out with a totally different design on a totally different body part. I'm not sure how or why that happened but, regardless, it is of traditional Rapa Nui design and I absolutely love it. It has already become a very special part of me, and is a very special memory of Rapa Nui, one of my favorite places in the world.

But having tattoo ink on my skin meant one thing ... after 41 days I really DID leave Rapa Nui ... SHIT!



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