Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

The Heart of Tattoo

August 19th, 2010 by

‘“We believe the ink becomes the beginning of time. Before there was any light, there was darkness. The black ink can represent our own past and all the knowledge that past contains in a symbol.

“By displaying this on our body, we give life to our ancestors and the knowledge they have, so it becomes our guidelines in life, helping us to navigate towards our goals.

“It then becomes a living thing, it is very spiritual.”’

– Te Rangitu Netana

The tattoo work of New Zealand tattooist Te Rangitu Netana is not about flash, nor does it use the methods that most of us think about whenever we think about tattoos.  Netana began his education as a tattooist when he was very young, from his father.  However, it wasn’t simply learning how to tattoo that came with this education, it was the culture of the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand that was indelibly linked to the art form that was just as essential – if not more so – than the tattooing itself.

At the age of 17, Netana performed his first tattoo and went on to become the official tattoo artist for three of his local tribes in northern New Zealand.  From this point he went on to win awards and to tattoo celebrities like British musician Robbie Williams.  His tools vary and he does use a tattoo machine, but he also uses everything from traditional hand tools of the Maori people to albatross bones.  That in itself is pretty original and fascinating to me.

Perhaps what I like the best about Te Rangitu Netana and the Maori approach to tattoo is that it completely removes itself from the concept of tattoo as a fashion statement.  Netana’s tattoos are pure representations of the person who wears them and that to me is something that I feel is at the heart of the tattoo art form, be it Maori or not.

“It is all about that person’s past and their future, and what they need to feel empowered.”

– Te Rangitu Netana

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