Tattoo completes poet’s Samoan experience

By Sina Sevaaetasi ,

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WHAT IT MEANS: Li'aifaiva going over  the symbolic meanings behind the tattoo with Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh ( tattoo left wrist).

WHAT IT MEANS: Li'aifaiva going over the symbolic meanings behind the tattoo with Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh ( tattoo left wrist).

For many people, a journey to Samoa is not complete without being inked the traditional way.

Yesterday the revered poet, Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh, got a traditional wristband done by renowned local artist, Li’aifaiva Imo Levi, at Maluafou. 

In the country for the prize giving of the 2016 Samoa Observer Short Story Competition tonight, Dr. Marsh wanted to use the opportunity to experience being tattooed in Samoa. At Maluafou, she laid completely relaxed accompanied by her husband and a relative, while Li’aifaiva went to work.   

She said the rhythmic tapping of the instruments was absolutely meditating and she showed no pain as the tattoo was almost completed. Once complete, the master tattooist went over the symbols included in her intricate band. The band included symbols of her own journey that include her husband and kids amongst other significant symbolisms.   

After her tattoo was complete, an ava ceremony was conducted in her honor. The reciprocation of knowledge between the two masters of their respective fields was quite electric.  

Not only was Mrs. Marsh astounded by Li’aifaiva’s artistic skill but also by the level of hygienic standard, which is something Li’aifaiva is renowned for. It is impossible to miss the neatness of the equipment and cleanliness of the workplace.    

After every tattoo, almost everything is thrown away to ensure that there is no cross contamination from person to person. Li’aifaiva’s emphasis on sanitation separates him from the rest.  His ability to maintain traditional techniques while including western medical practices is unmatched.  He is truly a pioneer in his own right. It was only fitting that Li’aifaiva be the one to complete Mrs. Marsh’s journey.  

© Samoa Observer 2016

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