Local artists Raniera Ellison and Stormy Kara have been meeting with tattoo artists from all around the Pacific.
They attended a convention in Tauranga, New Zealand, that was dedicated to indigenous art and featured leading tattoo artists from Tahiti, Japan, Samoa, Tonga, Melanesia, Hawaii, the Philippines Marquesas, Borneo and Taiwan.
Ellison and Kara, who share a studio called Akairo Creative in Panama, gift traditional motifs to their clients.
But Kara warns: If people want to wear traditional Cook Islands tattoos, they must choose appropriate designs whose meaning they understand.
Some of the traditional designs are very sacred, she explains.
Kara apprenticed with her uncle Tetini Pekepo, who specialises in Polynesian and contemporary designs. “One thing my uncle T taught me is that we are always learning,” she says.
“At the moment, my goal is bringing back some of our traditional placements and unique Cook Islands designs as we have mixed a lot of our designs with New Zealand Maori designs and the Samoan style.”
Next, Kara says, they hope to host a convention in Rarotonga.
Kara is teaching her seven-year-old son about traditional motifs and hopes that he will be able to lead the changing tattoo culture here one day.