I was happy to hear today that New Zealand-based tattoo artist Tiki O’Brien has agreed to work on a design for the Pacific Islands portion of Connected By Sea. I had been concerned because our initial communications got off to a slow start. Maori and Pacific Islanders is a group I REALLY didn’t want to get wrong- I love the artistic style so much, and also the fact that it’s a living native art form, with many modern practitioners bringing historical forms into modern life.
But I’m also well aware that there is a lot of strong feeling around this; the fact that many feel “Maori tattoo should be only for Maori people”, the sacred aspects of getting the work done and some of the placements and motifs being definitely reserved for particular families or status of people. To make a design that’s ok to use elsewhere, especially on the GROUND, seemed to me fraught with peril and a minefield I hadn’t the knowledge to navigate.
The Pacific Islands is also a crucial piece of this narrative, being the place our sailors reputedly learned the art form of tattooing from in the first place!
To have Tiki O’Brien’s artistic skill and cultural knowledge is a very happy thing for me and the project. There’s a lot of fresh Maori design stuff on his Youtube channel, and a lot of good info at Maori-arts.com.