READING BETWEEN OUR LINES
A Papua New Guinean Tattoo Documentary
For many a Pacific Islander, a tattoo is a marker of one's identity - a reminder of one's heritage and a visual story to carry on their skin.
The art of tattooing has travelled the world over and while its popularity has continued strongly into contemporary culture today, the awareness of the traditional practices of tattooing in Papua New Guinea is dwindling.
Tep Tok is a documentary aimed at changing this situation.
The documentary follows four women of Papua New Guinea and Australian descent as they explore their tattooing traditions on a journey which takes them from Australia to Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, Cook Islands and back.
Much like the legendary swim of the Samoan twins that brought the art of Tatau (Tattoo) from Fiji to Samoa, this life changing journey for the four filmmakers takes the viewer through Pasifika cultures with the hope to breathe life back into the dying art worn by their grandmothers.
A particular focus of the documentary will question the changes in Papua New Guinea through the stories of the women as young mixed race girls adapting and creating a culture to which they belong outside of their Pacific nation.
Understanding the richness of their heritage to then observe as outsiders the next generation of Papua New Guinean people. Creating Tep Tok in the hope to inspire the practice of central province tattooing in the next generation.
In short, Tep Tok aims to bring light to a vanishing ancient practice; though the desire to reinvent what has been lost.
Gabagaba Village, Motu, Papua New Guinea
I love to close my eyes and dream about our Bubu’s as young girls. Standing on our verandah’s the freshly tapped out designs on their skin shining under their coconut oil in the sun.
The sounds of their voices singing, “Hiri dika, hiri namo, daiva dika, daiva namo …”
What do all of the tapped out designs tell us? What are the secrets of our Tubuna’s history, the stories of their markings, our spiritual connections? How do they relate to us today? What do we lose if we turn our backs on them?
There are so many questions, the urgency of finding their answers escalates as each of our Bubu Heine’s with the full reva reva join our ancestors. These are things I want my daughters to know about.
How can we keep the reva reva alive as we battle the infiltration of western and Pacifika patterns that don’t hold the significance that our Tubuna’s designs held.