Malu a se Tamaita'i ma lana Tama Teine

My older sister wanted a malu(female traditional tattoo from the knees to the thighs) for awhile now to mark new beginnings for her. We were busy with baby sister's wedding so weren't sure if it was going to go ahead. However the Wednesday after the wedding we found the tattooist and his two assistants at the family house. LM was no doubt ready to face the music of the tattooist the very next morning. After a hearty breakfast the tattooist started on my sister's left leg. They completed the one leg by lunch time.

LM's husband arrived with their four kids as they were completing her leg and their eldest, my 13 year old niece YF immediately took to the artwork and announced that she wanted one too. Her father and mother both said to her it was painful and she would have to be quite brave to get one. The 13 year old kept saying she wants it on the same day as her mom and her granma(my mom) has one and she wanted one too. My Mom heard all this and sat her down and spoke to her about it. Did she really want it and why? Her parents were now all for it and said to my niece YF that if she wanted it she can get it.

This is no ordinary thirteen year old. She's mature for her age and umm a Samoan fully grown 13 year old. After lunch the tattooist said that they will start on YF's left leg! And they began. About 10 minutes into the tattooing, younger sis and her palagi friends arrived to witness some Samoan culture on display. I went to the living room to say hi to LC's friends and to give some encouragement(from me whose body is not covered with tattoos) to my niece. I was greeted with an ironic(funny to a Samoan) scene. A 13 year old was crying while being tattooed while the palagis were snapping away with their digital cameras. I'm sure in some countries this would be seen as abuse and yet here we were in good ol' Samoa celebrating the young girl's pain as a sign of devotion and bravery! Choo hooo My niece's cries eased up a bit as she got used to the rythm of the au and made it through the day. I wondered if she'd show up the next day.

Early the next morning both mother and daughter were the first at the scene of the crime to get some more drumming from the tufuga. YF went first and was done by lunch time and this time she was quiet and obviously knew how to deal with the pain quietly! Big sis went straight after with no dramas and all was done by 3pm. The beauty of their tattoos were so remarkable it just touched my proud Samoan heart. The tufuga's talent was showcased once more as he tattooed according to the woman's age and size. The malus were outlined the same but the delicate details differed. Though the malu is seen on many women today, it still blows the mind when you see it. The beauty of what is unique to us.

I asked my niece after she got tattooed after praising her bravery on why and what got her through the tattooing. Her words "I did it for my grandma(my Mum) and when I heard her voice it just calmed me down and kept going..." I choked back tears as I listened in awe of my niece who I carried around as an infant only about a decade ago, tell her aunty pala'ai the reasons the most remarkable piece of traditional Samoan wear is on her body.


leilani said…
Thank you sis~
Malelega said…
my pleasure love.

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