Feb 062012
Authors: Amy McDaniel

A verse from a traditional Samoan tattoo artist’s song reads:

“Your necklace may break, the fau tree may burst, but my tattooing is indestructible.
It is an everlasting gem that you will take into your grave.”

In Samoa, tattoos have been applied by hand for over two thousand years. Tattooing has also been a part of cultures around the globe for centuries, but was once a unique practice applied only to the minority.

Nowadays, getting tattooed is a widely accepted custom in our society, as well as a lucrative business.

CSU students are no strangers to this custom. The stories behind their ink, however, are greatly varied.

Former CSU student and College Avenue staffer Justin Hill, who has studied and written about rather extreme political ideologies, sees tattoos as effective conversation starters.

Hill’s newest tattoos are clearly visible, both on his thumbs and express the philosophy of self-proclaimed anarchist Joseph-Pierre Prouhon.

“The ‘A’ means anarchy, and the circle [that surrounds it] is actually an ‘O’ for order through anarchy,” Hill explains. “It means faith in human’s ability to live ‘in order’ without a direct authority telling them, basically, to be in order.”

The tattoo on his left hand is an encircled ‘E’ which indicates “order through equality,” and together with the encircled ‘A’ describes Prouhon’s ideology.

Hill’s tattoos are a way to permanently embody the ideologies that inspire him and share the beliefs of the philosophers he studies, such as French Existentialists Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Hill admits he used to preach the theories he discovered throughout his life to anyone that would listen.

“I quickly realized that people don’t want to have that stuff yelled in their face all the time,” Hill said. “I’ve sort of calmed down, and decided that these [tattoos] are sort of a happy medium. If someone is interested in hearing about it then sure, I’ll share it with them.”

In Samoan culture, the master’s sacred knowledge was trusted to determine what tattoo was appropriate for each person, and the meaning was explained after application. For people like Justin, their ink offers them a forum to teach others the ideas that inspire them and the convictions they identify with.

“I get a chance to explain what I believe,” Hill said. “I think that’s what tattoos are about; if it’s going to be on you forever, it may as well be something that defines you.”

 Posted by at 8:03 am

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