When I was in high school my father had this polynesian book, telling the stories of our culture. Inside I found a picture of a woman standing beautifully with this pattern painted across her thighs. I still remember what she looks like. I think at that moment I knew I was going to get one. With no understanding of what it meant, I knew there was this high significance of pride she held while standing there. My whole life I was raised by a samoan woman with integrity. It is the first thing I’ve noticed about our women. We have been raised to uphold ourselves in high regards to our families, to serve, to love, to shelter our homes. That is what I saw in the Malu. The female tattoo for our women. Which covers the legs from just below the knee to the upper thigh, just below the buttocks. The malu was only worn by the chief's daughter. She would receive one following puberty. She would become the village taupou. Expected to perform key ceremony tasks and represent her family on ceremonial occasions. As times have shifted so has the chiefly qualifications and cultural knowledge. I don't say that to say anyone can get one. I say that because I am a samoan girl, who was willing to endure such pain for my father's name and the women who came before me. As a samoan girl, at one point in my life I was the daughter, grand-daughter, great grand-daughter of a high chief. That blood is deep and rich. It took me awhile to get my dad's blessing. I would not have done it without it. This process has been thought of and prayed about before I was able to see it come to life. I am of a new samoan generation, yet the roots of who we are does not change. We are women of honor, respect and humility.
I grew up in Southern California my whole life. I've heard and seen the stories of my people migrate from the islands, spreading across the land bringing the richness of who we are with them. That is what I carry with me. When my father finally gave me his blessing I had already experienced pain through heartbreak, and child birth, but this kind of pain wrapped me up and numbed the inside of what I thought I knew. It was painful! I knew I would have to stand against some reproach of critics. But I was okay with that. I know who I am. This does not define me. If anything it made me more aware of the frighting mindset we can get sucked into thinking we are not worthy enough to live up to our culture. Yet it has taught me that no matter where we are in the world, we are universally connected.
On March 30, 2018 Su'a Si'i Sulu'ape Liufau tattooed me the traditional way, as my sister held my hand. Samoan music played through our ears. I could feel nothing but the hands of strong men stretching my skin, as the handmade sticks tapped across my thigh, the blood being wiped with cold cloth. I closed my eyes bearing all pain, silent prayers graced in whispers on my lips. I breathed soft breaths, taking in all of my culture. For 10 hours, I laid.
Not a tear shed.
When I was finished I wept.
This is MY malu.
There has always been graceful moments in aging. You can look back for a second and reflect on how far you have come. I've witness great women around me love who they become in the light of another year. I've embraced every age ready to learn something new. 27, I'll always hold close. It's the age I learned that pain is temporary, and what God does with it - for His glory is beautiful. I have learned from my ancestors our journey, yet God is showing me how far He can take us.........
I carry the same features as my ancestors.....
where her back tell the stories of the children she’s carried.
The ones that have passed on,
The ones who never acknowledge the depth of her motherhood,
Or the ones she’s given up because she’s given up on herself.
I have stood on her back at one point in my life
I have searched worlds to be like her
I have melted in the palms of men who carried words uplifting my strength to carry....
Yet uncertain of the word marry ....me.
I have miscarried a seed.
I have washed my hands of blood, in fear of betraying her; so I betray my God.
Forgive me. For I knew not what I did.
I carry the same features of my ancestors
Where her thighs beg her knees to bend
And she prays for strength to endure the heartache of her children’s pain.
I carry the same features as my ancestors
Where she carries her pain in her eyes.
She smiles but her words cut your heart
They bear the marks of her past
I carry the same features as my ancestors
Where Her hands tell the stories of the work she’s plowed too
Cut from cloth so thick yet soft enough to
lather your face in the palm of her youth
Aging gracefully in the dawn of a new generation
she sits upright
Conquering seas of heartache
Mountains proclaiming adventure
She is teaching me patience of the unknown
I have rushed through my life without asking her what truth does she desire?
Sometimes never reaching the destination in her desires
From Adams rib to dirt
From dirt into beautiful things
My God has crafted such remarkable human beings
Their blood flows through my veins
I carry their hearts
I too, love hard as they do
I am my ancestors.................
I am not their curses.
I will not live in it’s damage.
I am not their hurt.
I will not pity my heart.
I am not their pain.
I will not carry that burden no more.
My body can endure the calling......
For these bones will tell the stories of what God has done!
"She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and assigns tasks to her maids. She considers a field before she buys or accepts it (expanding her business prudently); with her profits she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard. She equips herself with strength (spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task) And makes her arms strong." Proverbs 31:15-17