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Here’s a beautiful little film by Crystal Vaega that might help you learn the significance of the traditional Samoan tattoo to Samoan people.

It tells the story of Sonny Natanielu, who was born in Samoa but lost his connection to our culture when his family moved with him to New Zealand. The film explores a theme that so many young, first generation immigrants know intimately: a struggle to define our personal identity.

For Sonny, receiving his malofie/pe’a tattoo was the culmination of a 25-year journey out of a confused desperation into the peaceful knowledge self. The symbols and patterns seared into his body by one of our greatest living tufuga tatau – tattoo master, Sulu’ape Petelo – are a constant reminder to Sonny that no matter where in the world he lives, he is a son of Samoa.