With a Twist

Tribal tattoos really get a bad rap, whether it’s for being boring or ubiquitous or any other number of complaints. The easy solution? Make them all look as amazing as this.

(Paul’s arm and chest — 16 hours, thus far — by Steve Oliver.)

43 thoughts on “With a Twist

  1. Wow. I’d be one of the people guilty of giving tribal tattoos a bad rap but that is immense…

  2. except that it’s not really tribal, nor is it the mindlessless sharp pointed black abtract stuff that people who have no idea what they really want, get, referring to it as tribal (which implies it may be indigenous to someplace/peoples, which it isn’t) . very nice tattoo though.. more celtic than anything.

  3. Wow, that’s really amazing and I absolutely hate most tribal tattoos.
    It reminds me of Prince of Persia.
    [closet nerd.]

  4. Celtic… What!?! It’s clearly Maori and Polynesian inspired. The koru patterns, the flax weaving etc.

    I like it, especially the strength of the outlines. However I think that subject is very important here.

    I would hope that he’s either a Kiwi or has a strong afiliation to New Zealand, because I feel (as a Kiwi) a tattoo such as this should have meaning to the wearer and not just be “tribal”. It’d be a shame to have such a recognisable design and not understand it’s “heratige” so to speak.

    Beautiful work. I’d like to know more.

  5. Love it, especially the red in it but no.. I wouldn’t label this as a tribal.
    Looks alot more like the pattern the vikings just to use to decorate rune texts with..

  6. Really, I’m not going to say that it has any -definate- influence. Oh, I’m sure that it has multiple ones. But I think he may have wanted to go for a beautiful mix (And succeeded with leaps and bounds) of various styles.. I’m always a fan of spirals and swirls, for some odd reason.. And I truly love this tattoo. I must kidnap the artist.

  7. “mindlessless sharp pointed black abtract stuff that people who have no idea what they really want, get,”


    Thats pretty harsh coming from one visiting such a free spirited site like this. I don’t even have any body mods but, at least I appreciate what i see on here as a type of art form. The people I know that have the “stuff” you are talking about wanted that because of it’s simplicity. It doesn’t have to be multi colored and/or some deep meaning behind it to be appealing.

  8. re: #11 You’ve got it totally right. Stylistically and content-wise, the tattoo has strictly Maori patterning. Not just just the koru patterns, but it has mangopare/hammerhead shark patterning, raranga whakairo/flax weaving patterning, and the notching patterns almost reminicent of puwerewere.

  9. kiwis unite! its definitely maori/island inspired. very well executed piece too. nice.

    also that is one pasty man-tit.

  10. Nice work, couldn’t agree more with #11 too. Too many cultures are ripped off in the name of “being cool” or simply because they’re little known. I’m also surprised at the lack of knowledge from other posters. All over the world tattoos are done in different ways, for different reasons, in vastly different and often unique styles. Maori tattoo was famous due to ta moko, a brutal procedure more akin to ink rubbing. I would’ve thought more people may have been aware of this, or is it just not as “cool” as Burmese etc. indigenous work?

    And seriously, “spirals and swirls”, “viking influence”?

    Is it wrong that I’m mildly offended as a Kiwi?

  11. nope i can not see a black panther shaped thing but at the same time i cant see any hammerhead shark patterning but i know nothing about maori other than poi and i might have made up it up or misheard …i like swinging poi i’m no good at it though

  12. This is a very beautiful piece. People getting worked up about the influences, chill out… I have Japanese/Oriental inspired artwork, and I am certainly not Asian. That aesthetic just worked for the designs and themes I had in mind, and it is pleasing to my eye. I don’t see why you need any more reason than that to be tattooed with any style, especially not when you are going to get it done as well as this!

  13. re: 21,22, 23.

    Kiwi’s unite indeed. We tend to have such a strong opinion on tattoos of Maori origin/influence, which I think is a great thing. And yes, we do (a generalisation, I know) seem to get offended when people mis-interpret or use the designs without ‘understanding’ them. This is because Maori designs and art are such an important and powerful part of our current (and historic) national culture and identity. The practice of traditional ‘Ta Moko’ and Whakairo (carvings) is ‘tapu’ (sacred). They are used to record and pass on heritage, stories and ledgends, ancestoral info and much, much more.

    A lot of non-New Zealanders (and non-Maori Kiwis too) are getting moko designs tattooed on them, many of which have improper significance. Every part of a moko (whether it be on the face or body) has significance and meaning.
    The koru: the unfurling fern frond and symbolizes new life, growth, strength and peace.
    The Mangopare: Maori for hammerhead (shark), it symbolises strength, determination and warrior spirit.
    Raranga: weaving, has multiple meanings including unity and togetherness, it also brings tribal memories of the ancestors.
    Puwerewere: Spiderweb – Legends say that Ruate-pupuke (the first man to learn and teach woodcarving) was taught the art of carving by pungawerewere. They initiated the spiral designs of the carving which were similar to the patterns in their webs.

    Now I don’t think it’s wrong at all to get tattoo’s inspired by a particular cultural style (re: 26). I just feel that you should understand it’s context, especially when the design will mean something significant to a group of people. That’s the point I was raising above (11). I’d like to hope that Paul understands the origins, or even better, some of the traditions and meanings behind this beautiful piece of work. I feel that way about the origins of all tattoo styles, including japanese/chinese/celtic/henna etc. It’s wonderful to see Maori artwork/design becoming more recognised and enjoyed, but I’m sure any culture would not like to see thier identity misappropriated. Just like how I feel about ours. For the record, I’m pakeha (a white Kiwi).

  14. re: #27 I’m not into the whole ‘Kiwis unite’ thing, because I’m not a Kiwi. I’m Pakeha. I’m Maori. And I was born and bred in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and proud to live in the land of my ancestors.

    BUT let’s keep in mind that kirituhi (the term used to describe when a non-Maori receives a ‘Maori’ tattoo) is a legitimate way for foreigners to acquire Maori tattooing.

    I wasn’t getting up in arms, just stating that obvious that this tatto is Maori inspired.

    And I don’t like it when people claim a culture which they don’t even contribute to the well-being of. I would hope that if my fellow New Zealanders are offended by the misappropriation of ta moko, that they are actively seeking to reinvigorate te reo Maori through using it personally, and also all other aspects of te ao Maori. Because, due to the fact they are offended, they must have a vested interest in the culture.

    Tihei mauri ora!

  15. oh Jon, so nice to see you write in here…I kind of expected it, but you’ve been absent far too long! Come back, I miss you.

    And yes, i knew straight away this was Maori, being mostly kiwi myself also. But don’t get on the defensive…a lot of people don’t recognise the awesomeness that is tattoos like this! ;)

  16. Could have been mistaken as getting a tad up in arms with the slosh of every body else. I admire the pride though in your people, Jon P.

    As to the SillyKiwiMan.. I find swirls and spirals aesthetically pleasing. Did I say that this was a meaningless tattoo? No. Thanks for misreading though.

  17. Hey sorry areku, it just pushed the wrong button.

    Unfortunately kiwi culture, many aspects of it, has been misused in popular media. Zoolander where they speak of a “May-ory” (phoenetic interpretation of their inability to pronounce Maori) tribesman (not a term likely to be used in New Zealand without causing great offence to said “tribesman”) with terribly inaccurate facial tattooing, the Ta Moko mentioned several times above, and also in Wedding Crashers when Owen Wilson mentions that he doesn’t know port from starboard due to learning to sail with the “Kee-Wees” where he stressed the second syllable (pedantic, but that’s not how the word is pronounced) where we apparently do everything either upside down or backwards.

    Having said that I liked both movies…

    Kiwis also sometimes get defensive after explaining that we don’t refer to ourselves as a fruit, in fact, the fruit was named after the native, flightless bird indigenous to our country.

    Basically, we’re overly sensitive when we think someone may be ripping us off, or not taking us as seriously as we take ourselves. We’re a touchy bunch, and don’t even start on the “oh, you sound so close to Australians, how are we supposed to tell?” thing…

    However, how many people would ridicule someone getting chinese characters saying something cliched without having any understanding of what they were undertaking? The urban legend of the chinese waiter laughing at the bloke with “I’m an ugly boy” tattooed on his overly-pumped bicep when he thought it meant “strength” or some similar wank certainly made me laugh.

    I love the tattoo, and I hope that the work is appreciated on its own merits as a well-executed piece, and also understood as borrowing from a culture. All cultures with a history of tattooing should be understood before their “style” is borrowed, and it should never be bastardised.

    And I like spirals too!

  18. Ya can’t call people ‘tribesmen’ here in New Zealand ‘cos its a gang here. Colours: Yellow and black. The Killer Beez is a street gang who started out affiliated (a feeder gang if you will) but through gang politics has fallen out with the Tribesmen. Ain’t nothing quite like going to a 21st and seeing a bunch of Tribesmen hanging around outside the door…

  19. Perhaps I’m due 10mins in the pouaka hara Jon P (oh, and no.32 did make me reminisce/chuckle!)

    I agree with you Jon P (re:28) and SillyKiwiMan (re:31). And as for contributing to the well-being of our culture, both current and historical. I hope these responses are helping to inform and instill interest in those reading though who have been drawn here by the quality/beauty of this tat. Cheers.

    For interests sake there’s an article on kirituhi here (www.tao-of-tattoos.com/kirituhi.html), and of course here (wiki.bmezine.com/index.php/Kirituhi)

    [My ongoing mātauranga]

  20. What tribe?

    And also, I thought it was “maori”, as if you’re saying the name of that chinese guy with the little red book, right up against “ree”, like this:


    At least that’s what it looks like to my northeastern US eyeballs. If that’s not it, then you people need to learn english phonetics already.

  21. Wait a minute… there are street gangs in new zealand?

    Pardon me for just a quick second:


    They can’t be taller than three feet, right? Or wait, was it three apples. I always get hobbits and smurfs mixed up. Which ones are the ones with the chin tats?

  22. re: 34… English phonetics? It’s a bit like Romanji in the Japanese language, they have their way of pronouncing their language because it existed a long time before it came to be written with the English alphabet. Ditto for Maori.

    The ‘ri’ of Maori isn’t pronounced ‘ree’. That would be stressing the ‘i’ and making it a long vowel (represented by a macron) which it isn’t. However, without the ability (or know-how) to do a macron here (though I saw it above in the word matauranga) it would be more appropriate for me to type the word ‘maori’ as Maaori. It’s the ‘a’ in maori which is long/stressed. Maa-o-ri. Give it a go, yttrx. Let it grow on you.

    re: 35… The gangs in NZ are just as vicious as the gangs in the States. Except a lot of the time they fight with machetes, axes, pipes, and bats as opposed to your gangsters who drive by with guns because they’re too pussy to get their hands dirty. They’re the ones blocking women they randomly kidnap as they walk by. They’re vile. But they serve a deeper purpose for disenfranchised Maori. If they were three feet tall I’d feel a lot safer in their company hahaha

    What a crack up cunt ow!

  23. Oh, and all of the Aotearoa related articles on BMEWiki were written by me (under my ex-iam name original_sly/Sly) and it was me who drew up the BMEAotearoa shirt design. I used to be all about this community under it was stolen by a lying whore. Chur chur cuz!

  24. Aha. Your indepth knowledge of the arts of Moko and kirituhi becomes clearer JonP / Sly. Ka wani kē!

    I get the macrons by changing my keyboard language (I’ve got a Māori layout plugin I use).

    It was interesting to see while I was back home in Aotearoa how much more kirituhi seemed to be on display. Not sure if it’s becoming more prevelant or not, but it was nice to see.

    Gave my lady a bit of a shock how tattooed up many of the gang fellas and ladies were too. I took her down the local! That was an experience and a half for her. Tattoo’s have always been important to the gangs in NZ, the quality seems to be getting better too (at least within the boys up home), as tattoo equipment and techniques are brought in. After getting over her initial shyness/concern my lass ended having a ball, the M-Mob boys were buying her drinks all night! Ha ha.

  25. Jon P: I’m thoroughly confused. Ok so wait:

    The last syllable, i, is not ee, but more like a short “ih” sound? And is “maao” like the chinese dude, except with a longer short a? I’m doing the short a, like chairman mao or the polynesian phonetic “mau”. It’s like that but with a longer a?

    I’m actually really interested at this point, despite my best intentions. Damn you.

    Also, I refuse to believe that the gangs in NZ are as bad as they are in the states. Though I will admit that they’re quite clearly more psychotic, but that actually makes them less dangerous. In some US cities the gangs are so organized that the police simply do not go into their neighborhoods, ever. They become entirely autonomous by way of the apathy of authority here, and coupled with the millions they rake in it’s not hard to understand why they prefer to do “business” with automatic weapons from a moving car.

    When there’s business at stake, you don’t get your hands dirty.

    I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery though. Between you and the UK, it seems to be becoming quite ironically cool to be american. Or at least what you think is american.

  26. I agree, it is the height of fashion to emulate “American” mannerisms, fashions, cultural trends here in New Zealand. But that’s something that seems to be common to all young people everywhere. Especially the way indigenous young people emulate the “gangsta” lifestyle. Maori kids are especially good at it. Cocking their flat-peaked caps and shit. Sickening. But whatever floats their boat I suppose.

    The ‘a’ in Maori should be stressed like the ‘a’ in car, star, far, or similar words. The ‘ri’ or at least the ‘i’ in Maori should be said quickly like the ‘i’ in the name Fiona. That last example might be a lil shitty actually, cos some people might say Fiona with the ‘i’ stressed. I dunno.

    The gangs here are just gross. I dislike them immensely. The emphasis on being ‘staunch’ and intimidating the public. But then, you don’t see a lot of outward gang activity at all any more unless there’s a gang ‘war’ happening. We have a council by-law banning gang regalia in the CBD here and quite a few cities do. Gangs generally abide by it as I assume they don’t need trouble from the police. The methamphetamine trade is huge here in NZ and the gangs are the ones to blame. But they’re pretty sneaky about it. Just like you said, organized and generally hidden.

  27. I’m not going to join the debate in the previous comments, but goddamn that tattoo and the pride New Zealanders have in our country makes me so proud to be born and bred here. What a beautiful country we live in.
    Plus, I think the culture of Maori and Pacific tattoos have made it a country that is much more tolerant of tattoos in general; having quite a bit of (highly visible) work myself, I’ve had nothing but positive comments about it. I’m sure in other parts of the world I would get odd looks and maybe the odd derogatory comment (Odd looks I get a few of, but it’s usually the people with me that notice it and not me), but not here.
    And gang culture aside, I think New Zealand is a pretty awesome place. Make all the hobbit and flight of the conchords references you want; it’s pretty laid back and happy place to be.

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