Tattoing – a mark of manhood

Samoa, Polynesia

Already back in 1982, I documented a rite of passage; males being tattooed in Samoa. In April that year, I followed master tattooist Faalavelave as he tattooed a group of young men in a village on the island of Upolu.

Ung man på Samoa tatueras

”Women must give birth, men have to be tattooed,” says one Samoan tattoo song, expressing an age-old idea of equality between the sexes. Both must endure pain. In traditional Samoan society all young males had to be tattooed when they reached their late teens. Otherwise they were not considered real men. Nowadays, the custom is no longer general, but it is still associated with manhood and male prestige, and hugely popular.

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