In new-guinea tattoo goes along with initiation rituals and is the symbole of the passage to adulthood. It is generally a test and a proof of strengh and resistance. In these regions (where fishing prevails) a boy who doesn’t go through this pain will be considered as unable to catch fish and find a wife. On the contrary a man largely tattooed is proudly nikcnamed “the one who screamed a long time”. Some body parts like the hands and feet are very sensitive to pain of the tattooing, those who can’t resist it publicly show their lack of courage. But the social pression is so strong that very few individuals accept to undego such an humiliation.
In the same logic the women whom the lips are not tattoed are ashammed and considered as hideous. In those regions women have specialised into tattooing: they do on young girls facial tattoos composed of lines and geometrical designs. So tattoo makes women beatifull and shows their strengh. There’s no pre-established designs, each tattoo is unique and the woman who does it follows her inspiration. The only design that is common to all is a column of “V” on the forehead. If to help men to endure this test fests (with drinking and singing) are organised the tattoo of women is on the contrary made discretly and quietly; because female blood is considered as impure and a threat to the power of the warriors. But nowadays the meaning of tattoo have changed. Thanks to multiculturalism tattoo is used essentially as a sign of membership.
In all micronesia the making of textil and body adornment are the two main artistical activities. The designs of the clothes and tattoos which are very complex enable to identify a family, a social rank or status. Tattoos are composed with design reservd for defined family and not for others. Women would wear tattoos on the stomach, the bottom and legs as they could not wear the belt reserved to men. In the Marshall islands tattoos would also have designs in common with the clothes. So tattoo and clothing enabled to distinguish men and women socially, as only men with a very high social status had the right to wear tattoos on their faces: as the faces is the most sacred part of the body because it is where the mana of everyone is.
The polynesian population shows also a strong atachment to the body, the social status and the mana through their tattoos, which cover their body with protective images and reveal at the same time their social rank and strenghen their feeling of belonging to a gender. Before the decline of hawaian tattoo in the middle of the XIXth century men of high social status would wear tattoo on their face, chet, legs and hands. The designs would remind their genealogy. When they would fight their back and head were protected by a clothe and their feather helmet, their chest and face by their tattoos. In new-zeland the difference of gender was very marked. Men would wear tattoos on their faces when women were only tattooed on the lips and chin. Some women who were realy special had the right to tattoo their whole face to show inhabitual status. For the Areois of polynesia society is devised in several classes named by the body part tattooed. So the higest class is called “tattooed legs”, the second “tattooed arms” etc…For the Maoris men and women have quite the designs but femal tattoo is lighter. Like in many regions of the pacific women are tattooed on the lips and chin, those tattoos was supposed to protect them from growing older and protect their beauty. For the maoris the head also have a special status.
In the marquise islands tattoos made at the puberty is the mark of admission in the community of the bachelors. The principal tasks of this community is to protect the chief and kidnap in the other tribes the victimes necessary to the sacrifice. So during the realisation of the tattoos a ceremony is made where only male members of the family are invited. Three ceremonies are made during which the young doesn’t dance but shows his new body anointed with coco nut oil. The last festivities gives him a chance to find a wife.
So in thos islands tattoo is essantially a social marker the designs show gender; status, belonging to a group, alliance etc…So tattoo is an identity card. But nowadays tattoos are more the sign of a strong atachment to a culture. Tattoo is well spread in the young generation who want the traditions to go on.
In the western countries.
A tattoo by it’s permanent nature is generally well thought by it’s bearer. It’s content and placement have a strong symbolic values weather it is affective, ideologic or other. Every tattoo says something about the tattooee consciously are uncounsciuoly. First of all we can see two types of tattoos. First the coded tattoos. They mainly belong the prisoners environment like for three point standing for “mi vida loca”, some little lines can show the numbers of years spend in jail. The second category consist in the figuratives tattoos which is the main part of the tattoos. Tattoo tend to be considerer as areal graphic art. Some tattooees owned dozens of tattoos some are fully covered. We can see portraits (monalisa, kennedy,..), textes, eagles, motorcycles, ladscapes, sunsets, temples, japanese designs or even incredible reproductions like tre creation of the world by michelangelo inked int he back.