tep tok - reading between our lines 2015

tep tok documentaries

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tep tok


A Papua New Guinean Tattoo Documentary

Released 2015

Documentary Runtime : 56 minutes

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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.


Ranu James

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.