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Young entrepreneur spreads culture and joy through temporary tattoos

Wednesday 14 February 2024 | Written by Candice Luke | Published in Art, Business, Features, Local


Young entrepreneur spreads culture  and joy through temporary tattoos
Ngakaara Wong, left, is helping Veta expand the business to two locations at Punanganui Market. CANDICE LUKE/ 24021212

A young Cook Islands teen runs a successful temporary tattoo business at the market, connecting with customers through his art and cultural heritage.

Entrepreneurship runs in the family for 12-year-old Iaveta Kara-Elisa, known as Veta. 

The young artist delights visitors and locals alike at the Punanganui Market every Saturday, offering temporary tattoos designed by himself and his mother, local artist and tangata tātatau, Stormy Kara. 

His range features traditional Cook Islands motifs, flowers, turtles, stingrays and he’s always working on fresh designs. He has learned which patterns belong to which islands and is able to connect Cook Islands customers to their heritage. 

Veta loves to make people smile with his work, especially his peers.

“I like seeing the kids happy. I want to go to an area where there aren’t many things (that) kids like so I can provide something they’re interested in.” 

Jasal Oaariki has visited Rarotonga twice in one month, making sure to see Veta for her temporary tattoos each time. CANDICE LUKE/ 24021210

Cook Islander Jasal Oaariki lives in Auckland and has been to Rarotonga twice in the past month.

She made sure to visit Veta each time.

“My nana said my body is a temple so I’m not allowed real tattoos. I love it because it makes everyone feel included.” 

Veta’s temporary tattoos can be stamped on site (lasting up to three days) or packs of transfers can be purchased (lasting up to one week). He says they’re a great alternative for those with a low pain tolerance.  

His passion started at a young age.

“When I was three my mum made little stamps for me because I’d always ask her to draw on me.” 

By the time he was six-years-old Veta was stamping other kids and adults. 

Veta loves making people smile through his work. CANDICE LUKE/ 24021211

Now he’s expanding his business to two locations at the market, with the help of 13-year-old Ngakaara Wong.

“We used to work together at Juice Club on the weekends. It feels good to help my friend with his business.” 

Veta’s mother Stormy says the temporary tattoo business is a pathway to bigger things.

“It’s definitely a lead up to when he eventually gets on the (tattooing) machines.” 

An empathetic young man, she says Veta is great at interacting with customers and making them feel comfortable.

“He took notice of how tattoos make people feel emotionally. I’m very proud of him.” 

The young businessman is homeschooled, and his venture provides many life lessons.

“He goes home, works out his profit and banking, pays his market rent. We’ve gone to NZ and he’s bought himself a phone. He likes to contribute too.”

Veta’s work is a family affair. With seven siblings, two of which have passed away, he carries their memory on through his artistry.

“When I was four, I did a painting for my little brother. It hangs at my dad’s house. I go there and remember him.” 

Veta hopes to pass on his business to his younger sister when she’s old enough. He’s looking forward to a new addition to the family.

“My cousin is coming to be an apprentice for my mum. She might help me here too!” 

Veta wants to develop his skills in tātatu, but for now he’s enjoying the success of Iavetas Temporary Tattoos.