** PNG Motuan Tattoos **

via Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea Motuan Tattoos

Motu is both a language and culture in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is mostly found around Port Moresby and the Central Province of the country. In this area Motu is spoken instead of tok pisin.

PNG Motuan Tattoos have been around for many years and they are not random sketchings. All Motuan women were once tattooed from as young as six years old. These often magnificent body decorations are tattooed in different styles, shapes and sizes according to the traditional beliefs and rituals of the Motuans. Some of the tattoos on the modern Motuan woman are real -- most are now done, however, by using a felt tip marking pen.

Traditional Tattoos done with a felt tip marking pen
Korobosea International School (thanks to Miss Taukuro and Miss Simoi)

Tattoos are first started on the arms from hands to elbows. When young girls are tattooed, they must remain indoors, are not allowed to bathe or cut their hair. When the men are sighted returning in their lagatois, then the girls are taken outside and are allowed to bathe and clean up. As the girls have been indoors for a long time, their skin has become pale which shows up the tattoos better. As the girls age, they are tattooed across their midriff. When a girl becomes engaged and the bride price agreed to, a V-shaped tattoo is made between the breasts up to the shoulder. After marriage, the woman’s throat is tattooed and her private parts. The first born daughter of a lagatoi captain can wear a tear drop tattoo below each eye and over the cheek.

Port Moresby International School (POMIS)

Traditional Tattoos

In the Sepik region of PNG scarification (cicatrisation?) is practiced. Scarifying involves scratching, etching, or superficially cutting designs, pictures, or words into the skin as a permanent body modification. Skerah PNG has a page dealing with this form of body art -- -- and -- East and West Sepik provinces

Tattoos and Buai can be used as "bilas" / decoration - Modelled by Miss PNG 1985

Motuan Calendar - Port Moresby Weather - Oro Province Tapa - Kundu Drums - Buai - Bilums


Facebook page -- Tep Tok - Reading Between Our Lines -- TepTok is about keeping tattoos alive, and passing it on to the next gen.



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Created 24 Apr, 2006
Updated 5 Aug, 2014
© 2006 - Trevor Michie