Tattoos are beautiful but also very time consuming and expensive. The true beauty of tattooing lies in its simplicity: one stroke of a needle, a few hours to complete. An obvious example is the modern-day ‘Tribal Tattoo’: a simple design with a few sharp lines, usually on the forearm or upper arm. It’s not hard to see where the inspiration comes from: the ancient Maori people would tattoo themselves with designs to represent their tribe and clan.
It’s hard to see why this is so simple, though: what does it represent? What does it mean? You don’t have to understand Maori culture or history to understand tribal tattoos; you need skills and patience.
Tattoos are just another way of identifying yourself and your tribe – but that identity should be unique and meaningful, not just arbitrary (like the Tribal Tattoo). If you want your tattoos to be truly meaningful, then your tribal tattoo should tell a story about you – who you are as a person, what drives you, how you think, who you care about. It’s like writing poetry or drawing abstract art – if it doesn’t tell someone something about themselves or give them insight into their innermost being, then it’s just decoration for them.
Tattoos are something that many people feel is an odd thing for outsiders to understand about New Zealanders. But, over the years, we have come to accept tattoos are part of our culture and an essential part of our identity.
In fact, some people may even be offended when you say tattoo design; however, it’s not only important for us to be proud of our cultural heritage but also to show we are not just a bunch of cookie-cutter Westerners.
The way I see it, tattoos provide a reminder that we have been around longer than the rest of the world and that we don’t need to conform to what they consider normal and proper. Technology has changed in the last 10 years, and there are some new developments in tattoo design that can be quite impressive; however, they can also be challenging. A lot of these ideas were developed quite a long time ago by artists who had no access to modern computers. So starting today with what is available online can sometimes lead to poor results (or worse).