Marks of Mana

My review follows a hectic few days. I wasn’t going to go because I was salty about a lot of things from earlier in the day but the documentary gave my soul more peace than I had started that day with. I took myself on a date and don’t regret it.

The documentary started with the story of Taema ma Tilafaega; the two women that swam to Fiji to learn the art of tattooing and then returning to Samoa only to be confused when they returned. Their chant, which originally held that women would be tattooed, instead said the men would be tattooed. And thus tattooing on women was initially lost, but the “malu” resurged and has been growing since. Women get them for several reasons however there is always pain to be endured before you are bestowed one.

Marks+of+Mana+2
Credit: Director Lisa Taouma, Western Samoa, NZ, 2018

For a good snippet on the myth of Taema ma Tilafaega check out these posts. Or even Sia Figiel’s “They who do not Grieve” which makes several references to the twins.

The story starts off in Samoa and travels to Aotearoa, Papua New Guinea. To a lesser degree, the story also covers female tattooing in Fiji and the Cook Islands.

Malu (adj; noun) – to protect; the top of the house of a fale; shelter. Also known or depicted as the entrance to the first house of humankind. The womb. Hence the symbol of the diamond.

Patterns in the Samoan malu design centre around the feminine and feminine strength. The imagery and the story-telling were both was ethereal.

First of all, can I say how empowering it feels to be privileged as an audience? When the story is and was created by someone like you, for you; by Pacific women for Pacific women (including Maori). 

I highly recommend seeing it if you can. I’m not sure if copies will be available on DVD/electronically, but if you’re an indigenous woman exploring your identity, this is a 56 minute deep dive you will definitely want to check it out.