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Rapa Nui and Its Tattooing Art
Youth have a renewed interest in the ancient techniques
Margot Hotus S. (margoth)     Print Article 
Published 2006-04-08 15:56 (KST)   
Uka a Hei a Arero, also known as Queen Eva, last queen of Rapa Nui
©1943 S.Englert
As with other Polynesian islands, on Rapa Nui the art of tattooing was very important. There the word for tattoo is "TAKONA": "ta," which means to write or engrave and "kona," meaning place. The whole word means something like "the place to engrave."

One of the last persons who had tattooing done on her body was Uka a Hey a Arero, the last queen of Rapa Nui. Catholic missionaries changed her name to Eva, and they changed her husband's name from Te Kena to Adam. As you can see, they were trying to "start over," but that's another story.

In the photo you can see Queen Eva's tattoos. She had two fine lines on her forehead, under which she had some dots of different sizes.

Tepano, with the traditional men's Rapa Nui face tattoo
©1870 H.Stolpe
In her cheeks she had little black ornaments, but these are not visible in this picture. If you look at her right hand you can see two fine, white, parallel lines in the middle of the hand. That's her skin color, the remainder of the hand and forearm (from the fingers to the elbow) being tattooed black -- not every finger, just the fourth and fifth.

The other photo is of a man named Tepano, who lived his last days working on the docks of Tahiti. He had his entire face tattooed as well as some parts of the body.

Sadly, the last man who was in charge of tattooing people was taken to Peru as slave many years ago.

There's a lot of information about tattooing on Easter Island, and now a couple of Rapa Nui young people are bringing back that ancient art using new -- and sometimes old -- techniques.

Related Articles
The Discovery of Rapa Nui
An Easter Islander's Peruvian Family
Rapa Nui Names Subject to Special Law
Rapa Nui Tales Shine Light on Life
The Origin of Rapa Nui's Names


Margot Hotus Salinas is a Rapa Nui resident and OhmyNews citizen reporter.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Margot Hotus S.

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