”Women must give birth, men have to be tattooed,” says one Samoan tattoo song, expressing an age-old idea of equality between the sexes. Both must endure pain. In traditional Samoan society all young males had to be tattooed when they reached their late teens. Otherwise they were not considered real men. Nowadays, the custom is no longer general, but it is still associated with manhood and male prestige, and hugely popular.
Fa‘asamoa (Samoan culture) inevitably changed in New Zealand. However, many Samoans continued the traditional practice of tattooing. The pe‘a tattoo, shown here in a self portrait by Greg Semu, is worn by men and normally extends from the waist to the knee. The pe‘a is a very painful process which can take several weeks to complete. It is a rite of passage for Samoan males.