Tahiti

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Tatau: Everyone is doing it.

A small group of islands in the South Pacific.

Tradition has it that Raiatea is the cradle of Polynesian Civilization. In ancient times it was called 'Havai'i fanau'arefenu', meaning 'Havai'i the cradle of all lands'. According to tales collected by ethnologist Peter Buck, Tahiti and the little islands of the Windward group were created from an earth-fish that drifted from Havai'i in southwesterly direction, splitting itself along the way to become those islands existing today.

Tatau, or ta-tatau is the Tahitian reference to tattooing with traditional tools. It is believed it originates from the sound the instruments make while being used. Before the ta-tau though, the initiate purifies themseves by walking on hot lava rocks in the Umuti ceremony. To not do this would make the tattoo taboo and it would never be right.

One of the inks used in Tahiti is Tiairi, which is the ashes of Bancoul nuts used to make tattoo ink. Mixed with a liquid substance it is initially black under the skin but soon heals to a bluish color.

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