It’s anything you can wear on your body. It’s more than just a marker, a word, a colour or a shape. It’s about a community identity, your culture, your identity.
My mother is Samoan from the island of Kaupapa, and our family got tattoos at a very early age because that is our culture, it is our self-esteem and it is our individuality.
That is my identity. Everything I’ve been told about Samoan culture, they are only talking about the “real Samoans”.
Is my family proud of my tattoo?
In Samoa people believe we should cover our skin but there is really no shame in a tattoo. But there is shame in the fact that the majority of people we meet, whether they know it or not, are not proud of what their family have done, what their ancestors have done.
That’s the stigma; that being “in-your-face” is important for society because that’s what the rest of us hide behind. So you end up being a minority, people are ashamed of what you do.
They feel like you are a bad person because of an ink mark on your hands
Some families who are proud of their tattoos also feel that it symbolises a loss of identity. I’ve been asked questions like: “What do you feel that you symbolised as a tattooist?” They feel that you are a bad person because of an ink mark on your hands.
But, on the contrary, as I grew older it has only become more positive because I have become so proud of that tattoo and how proud I am of my family.
My father did have a big tattoo in his past, where he lost much of his vision by a stroke but he didn’t let it define him. He always kept his integrity. He never changed.
It would be really sad to be called that but I’ve always been proud. When you’re proud, you get the courage to keep going.
Image copyright Matt Poulter Image caption Matt Poulter and his brother Nick also got tattoos
I don’t know if it’s better to be born Samoan and still have tattoos on me or not. It was something I chose to do, it’s something I value very much. It could have been more. It would not be something that would be celebrated at all in some ways, in the same way that my dad might be “the bad bastard”.
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