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Nga tama o Punga

Nga tama o Punga is the name of the last design in the book, and in the Maori language it means “the children of Punga.” It is inspired by the author’s personal tattoos.

Punga was the son of Tangaroa, god of the sea, and also a god himself. He had two sons, called Ika-tere and Tū-te-wehiwehi, who fled Punga’s home to avoid the wrath of another god. Ika-tere hid under the sea, where he became the ancestor of fish, mantas, and other sea creatures, while Tū-te-wehiwehi took refuge in the forest, where he became the ancestor of reptiles.

The manta and the lizard in this design share a common characteristic: they are both related to personal growth and achievement, as mantas can represent knowledge and lizards are symbolic of wisdom and interaction with the spiritual world. These are the main meanings that led to the choice of elements in composing this design. On the wings of the manta, the author incorporated the Maori symbol called te ara poutama, “the road in steps,” which represents the path to knowledge that is never straight nor easy. The Hawaiian pattern called “path of Kamehameha” was included to depict a challenging path that leads to success. It is placed between the enata (person) in the center and the ancestors on top, depicted as guides bestowing their knowledge and teachings upon the enata below them.  Shark teeth were added for protection along the path, and as symbols of adaptability and strength. The bird next to the enata symbolizes both voyage and reaching a higher perspective above the world.

The lizard extends this concept and its elements by representing the voyage of the wise person (the enata within the head of the lizard, at the end of the row of birds) who has reached a higher perspective after a long, winding, and challenging path.

The alteration of black and white areas within the design brings balance and reflects the concept of interconnection between ao (light, place of the living) and po (darkness, place of the spirits), as darkness is the place of origin from which all knowledge comes to the world of the living. This dualism also shares many analogies with the concept of Yin and Yang, opposites that interpenetrate to generate unity.

Nga tama o Punga (Polynesian Tattoos)

The Sun

The sun is a universal symbol of eternity and life. In Polynesian cultures it is also regarded as a symbol of health, welfare, success, joy, purity, and fertility. It’s considered a male symbol, associated with fire. The rising sun symbolizes a fresh start, new life, and growth, while the setting sun can be a symbol of rest and peace, with the continuous cycle of day and night symbolizing eternity.

The sun in this tattoo is a symbol of protection, like the guardian tiki in the center of the design. The elements surrounding it represent protection from adversities (symbolized by the moray eel), cooperation, strength, and good luck in order to achieve stability, prosperity, and unity.

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The Sun (Polynesian Tattoos)

Roberto Gemori draws Polynesian tattoos for the site and collaborates with specialized magazines under the nickname GiErre. Passionate about Polynesian cultures for years, he is among the site's founders and likes to share his works to shed light on this beautiful and meaningful form of art. Learn More.

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