The artist weighs in on reestablishing the cultural significance of Hawaiian tattoo and teaching the next generation.
Uhi (Hawaiian tattoo) expert Keone Nunes sits, tattooing one of his four haumana (students) in the room—echoing the traditions of times long past—as long-time apprentice Keliiokalani Makua observes. The rhythmic tapping of his moli (tattooing needle) inside Waianae’s iconic Hale Ola Hoopakolea building is syncopated with the drops of light rain outside. Over the rhythmic beats, Nunes and Makua reflect on their journey so far in reestablishing the cultural significance of kakau (tattooing) and the discipline it takes to maintain the integrity of its sacred meanings.
When you first started in the art of uhi, much of the knowledge was on the verge of being lost forever. What made you want to seek that knowledge in the first place?