Polynesian/Micronesian Body Art: Tattoos as Gifts From Gods - Research Paper

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  3
Wordcount:  624 Words
Date:  2023-03-13


In the Polynesian and Micronesian cultures, the essential aspect of art was the body. The body adornment of the body took many forms from tattooing, fitting clothes while jewelry were the secondary ornament. Tattoos was art that enhanced the bodily beauty and considered as an art that will forever exist even after one dies, and more so, the cultures perceived tattoos as a gift from the gods. Tattoos in men signified courage, and women were attracted to the men's manhood. In Micronesian cultures, the marshals would have their breasts tattooed, which was painful. After the painful experience, songs would be accompanied by clapping to overcome the pain. Women tattooed their arms, shoulders, and hands while the men adorned chest, arms, shoulders, thighs, genitals depending on the preferences and wealth.

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In Polynesia, the men and women would tattoo most of the body parts. Tattoos would signify special events such as the rights of passage, the commemoration of events, the participation of events, and after victory in battles. The body was divided asymmetrically. Tattooing delicate body parts was a tribute of the death of a significant individual in the community. Facial art was sacred for chiefly ranks. Maori designs were modified and were strained as autographs in documents during the nineteenth century. Tattoos were wide-ranging from one tribe to tribe, area to area as well as overtime. In the culture Islands, tattooing was linked with puberty among girls and boys. Buttocks were tattooed black to emphasize the crescent shape.

Since the mid-nineteenth, during the coming of Christian missionaries, objects became less sacred and turned out to be more political. The objects, such as featherwork became an art in the western region. Identification with these objects reveals how individuals perceive themselves and others. Ornaments carried a metaphorical social and sacred power. For rituals, the ivory hook was worn in the neck for protection. There were also necklaces made of shells and seeds and anklets of shells. In Tonga and Samoa, funerals were essential occasions. They mourned through cutting their hair and by wearing rugged mats. A priest of a high-ranking wore an elaborate constructed costume and accompanied himself with a pair of pearl-shell clappers. The mourners were covered with pieces of turtle shells.

Unique objects like the Maori greenstone made earrings and presentation pieces. In Tahiti, pearls designed earrings, as well as the pearl shells, were used in the crafting of the mourning dresses. The imported materials, mostly from Tuamotus, were considered valuable ornaments. In Manihiki, rare shells were used as pendants while pearl shell designed for inlay. Some of the most precious objects in Fiji and Tonga originated from ivory, which was an important ceremonial substance. In Tonga, ivory carvings formed into a female figures were a sort apparel for the women of rank. Tonga style ivory formed the basic part of the ornament. Ivory and shell breast ornaments combined to form indistinctively Fijian style, which extended its edges and other shapes.

Clothing and fashion changed drastically. For instance, in the eighteenth century, the Hawaiian feather cloaks changed from straight to fitted rounded necklines. On public occasions, the Maori women would wrap a piece of cloth on their trousers during performances. During the importation of European ideas, clothing in Polynesian and Micronesia changed spectacularly. Today, the designing of wedding dresses is in such a way that they reveal body tattoos. The indigenous fashion events in this decade have changed to fashion extravaganza. The Pacific inspired fashions are presented in a slick, professional way, which has become the new look of the Polynesian grade. Indeed, for many years, the body has been adorned like art, especially during ancient times.


Kaeppler, A. L., & Adrienne, L. (2008). The Pacific Arts of Polynesia and Micronesia. Oxford University Press.

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Polynesian/Micronesian Body Art: Tattoos as Gifts From Gods - Research Paper. (2023, Mar 13). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/polynesian-micronesian-body-art-tattoos-as-gifts-from-gods-research-paper

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