Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tattoo you, A Memory for Me

Wendt wrote in Tatuing the Post-Colonial Body that “a tatu is a script or text that has long history.” In this context, tatus/malus can be a representation of [the Pacific] culture, of one’s connectedness to a place (like the Peace Corps volunteers), and/or of one’s readiness for life. I truly believe that our generation is a tattooing generation because it is not only among sailors, bikers, and indigenous cultures anymore as what people previously expected. It is all over TV on reality shows such as “Ink Master”, “Miami Ink”, “Tattoo Nightmare”, and the list goes on. We discussed in class how tattoo allows one to travel back to that very moment in their life when the tattoo was created. The memory a tattoo embodies permits a very special kind of travel as this memory has become a physical part of our bodies. My dad was the person to make me understand that every tattoo has meaning regardless of what it is and where it is. I will never forget the day we were on vacation in Cape Cod when I was fifteen years-old, and I finally asked my dad what his barbed wire tattoo meant. Before letting him answer, I proceeded to inform him that Pamela Anderson has the same one. He gave me a funny look and said, “I have it because there was a very long time that I felt trapped and lost in my own life.” This one statement brought much of what I had been feeling and experiencing in life full circle. It was when my dad turned thirty-four that he bought a Harley-Davidson bike and made the barbed wire apart of his body. I was four at the time. Now that I think about it, that tattoo even represents a moment in my life when I see it because that was the age that I started noticing something was not right and it was having just as much of an impact on me as it was on my dad. Some would see the purchase of a motorcycle and getting a tattoo as maybe some type of mid-life crisis, but for my dad, it was a time of identity crisis. This was a pivotal moment in my dad’s life when he realized being married to a woman was not his true self. Just as this was a turning point in his life, it was the same for Wendt after his first tattoo. His mother knew from that point on that he was ready to take on adulthood. There were a number of people involved in creating my dad’s tattoo and Wendt’s tattoo. For my dad, it was my mom, maybe even my brother and me, the conservative household he grew up in, and the tattoo artist who created the art of my dad’s arm. For Wendt, it was the old man, Samasoni, Tagi, and Jesus who completed the tattoo that was thought to be unfinished. 

Just like travel, tattoos are impacted by people we are surrounded by, culture, time, and influences. Wendt shares with us the factual and culture elements of Samoan tatuing as well as his personal experience that evidently was not as procedural seeming as the elements described in Tatuing the Post-Colonial Body. Embedding pigment into the skin is a systematic process but it comes from an emotional, even culturally impacted basis. The tattoo of the cross on Wendt’s hand is a memory for himself and his mother for that very moment that she felt he was turning into an adult. My dad’s barbed wire tattoo is a reminder of his courage and strength while it is a reminder to me of something that has made me into who I am today as well. I agree with Wendt’s idea that this type of adornment should be worn with pride because in places like Samoa, it is a unifying element of the culture and a reminder of one’s ability to take on life. The pain leads to life long decoration that reminds us of roots, experiences, and memories. 

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