Honu leads me to tatau

I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo since not long after P was born. Nothing I’ve seen or sketched, personally, has spoken to me.


June 2016, we took a family vacation to Kauai. The island spoke to me. I’ve thought about going back every day since. And the little wooden honu necklace I bought at a roadside stand there—and have worn every day since—has reminded me I will go back one day.

The call of Kauai is so strong I want to live on a sailboat so I can go back.

I fantasize about the ocean. About waves.

The waves are never wrong. They simply are.

I identify with Moana more than I should as a 40-year old white dude living in the desert.


Randomly find myself behind a Toyota Tacoma with a “TATAU” licence plate and discover there’s a master tatau artist from French Polynesia in my neighborhood. I’m talking the kind of dude who hand makes traditional tools and freehands all his designs direct on the customer.

I booked a consultation with Arauna Mara, the owner (and guy in the Tacoma). He spent a half hour in the clean, brightly lit lobby asking me about what matters to me.

I told him about V, P, Kauai, the ocean, storytelling, mountains, trees, blue skies, rain, and how I want my first tattoo to be something deeply meaningful.

I pointed out I want to make sure I’m being respectful. The island culture speaks to me, but that doesn’t mean I want to be another clueless, consumer haole engaged in cultural appropriation because it looks cool.

He took written notes. He pointed me to a couple online resources to learn more about Pacific Islander tattoo culture and styles. I’m learning a lot. Like how any other tatau master will be able to read my story and build on it when the time comes.


I’m booking an appointment after the first of the year.

This is happening.


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