APIA, Samoa (Reuters) – Oliver Fagalilo takes a labored breath and tenses his body before a sharp steel comb, dipped in ink, drives into his skin.
Six hands keep his body still and his skin taut as a Samoan artist works on the traditional tattoo that will cover more than half of Fagalilo’s body. It takes 35 hours over seven days to complete.
“Yeah, I’m going good, just trying to breathe, but it’s quite hard to breathe,” said Fagalilo, his uncle cradling his head.
“Just trying to push through. Trying to focus. Keep focus,” he added.
Dating back centuries, the Samoan “tatau”, from which the word tattoo is said to originate, is regarded as a right of passage for many Samoans.
Now a resident of New Zealand, Fagalilo, 39, and his sister Sharlene, 34 and living in Australia, returned to the Samoan capital of Apia to get their tattoos together, supported by their extended family.
The male tattoo, or pe’a, starts at the torso, covers the front and back, and…
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