Prior to leaving on the Aranui 3 for the Marquesas Islands, we had no idea of what to purchase, except for maybe wood carvings, tapa's, and other items. My wife and I travel so much, and it is becoming more and more difficult to find unique collectables. We always want to buy something special to remember our trips and planned to spend some bucks to buy from a gifted wood carver in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva (which we did anyway!). I gave little attention to tattoos, as I definitely shied away from this practice, being as conservative as I am.
As the trip moved forward, talking with the crew and seeing the true history behind tattoos in the South Pacific, I became quickly interested. The Marquesas Islands are historically one of the true artistic tattoo centers in the world, where it is more appreciated as an art and is rich in culture and tradition.
So, being over 50 and having little concern with the pressures of measuring up to my current job and life in general, my wife and I took the plunge! She always wanted one anyway.
One afternoon while at sea on the Aranui, they announced that they are taking reservations for one of the best artists, or tuhuna, in the South Pacific at a port on the tiny, remote island of Tahuata. With only 3 hours on shore, they were limited, but they never before had more than two or three takers. Not this time! Over eight people were interested as we wrestled for position. For those who did not make the list on Tahuata, the Aranui offered another opportunity while at port in Nuka Hiva with another tahuna.
Fortunately, my wife and I were picked to get a tattoo from Fati Fi’I, one of the South Pacific’s finest tahunas. As we arrived at the port town of Vaitahu, Tahuata, we were quickly whisked off the ship on the whale boat and made shore. Within a 5-minute walk, we were at a small house that was need of much repair. Both my wife and I looked at each other and wondered if this was wise!
The only thing that actually kept us there was that we were third and fourth in line and watched as the first gentlemen had his tattoo done. In watching, it was a relief to see that Fati took many precautions, such as disposable gloves and needles, and executed great care in applying the tattoo. In addition, the final result was wonderful and very detailed.
My wife went first since she had always wanted one. She asked for something to represent happiness, and in about 20 minutes, Fati completed a wonderful wheel design on the back of her right shoulder. I followed with what I wanted to represent: traveler. He put a Marquesian Cross with water on my left upper arm, which turned out fantastic. He first drew the art in a red marker and asked for approval before continuing. What was surprising was that it really did not hurt that bad, and before I knew it, it was done.
Two tattoos applied: $100. Marquesas tattoo: Priceless.
The only minor problem was that we could not go into the salt water for about 5 days. We missed a couple of beaches, but we ended up being extremely happy with the result. There was no infection from anyone on the trip. I think about this always and enjoy the thought that I can actually take this to my grave!!
So, my recommendation is: If you truly collect art from around the world, it is a mistake to not get a tattoo by a leading tuhuna in the Marquesas Islands. As we did, you can find many places on the body to make this a memorable piece of art! This is one of the best things I have ever done.