A tattoo tale
  1. I studied abroad in New Zealand in 2008.
  2. I took Māori Studies because I was both curious and an anthropology major.
  3. I also took a bone carving class with Clubs and Socs, because, COOL.
  4. In both classes I learned about various Māori symbology and some of the cultural mores surrounding it.
  5. One thing that stuck with me was that a bone carving in a traditional Māori symbol needed to be a gift.
  6. And so, I carved nothing for myself.
  7. I really wanted to, but it felt disrespectful.
  8. I also began to consider whether I should get a tattoo.
  9. What I really wanted was a hei matau on the back of my neck.
    A hei matau is a stylized fish hook which represents, among other things, safe travel over water.
  10. But, I couldn't buy it for myself.
  11. So I was stuck.
  12. I thought maybe I'd get it when I got back to the US.
  13. But then I thought, shouldn't it be done by someone who appreciates and understands the culture? IDK
  14. Also I feel like I can't ask for it as a gift? I might be overthinking it.
  15. Part of me worries it could be seen as cultural appropriation.
    I think because of my knowledge and understanding, it's more like appreciation on my end, but could still be viewed as appropriation.
  16. So do I even think it's okay to have a hei matau tattoo?
  17. I don't know.
  18. I did decide in Thailand that I felt weird about getting a sak yant tattoo.
    A sak yant is a type of tattoo that has sacred designs and words to impart power and protection. Normally you'd get one from a Buddhist monk and they are done by hand with a sharpened metal rod.
  19. They're getting popular with bloggers and travelers in Thailand.
  20. But I feel like it's cultural appropriation.
  21. I don't feel like I can get a magical Buddhist tattoo as a non-Buddhist.
  22. I do still kind of want to get a tattoo done by hand, because that would be neat, but not a religious one.
  23. I don't have any final conclusions, but I probably will not get a hei matau either.