"I think what you see in the barrios of L.A. -- the imagery, the sacredness, the assertion of identity and pride -- is actually no different from us," she said. "Just as in the Maori world, they have recurrent symbols that have particular messages for the wearer, the viewer and the family member."Could this be sort of chicken-and-egg. Tattoos are more en vogue than ever. So everyone gets a "tribal arm band" from some tribe somewhere, not knowing or caring what tribe the designs might be from. So the culture or tribe from which they come start to notice, and re-embrace, reclaim, their designs. So they get more righteously popular again. And the rightful owners want exclusivity. Everyone else is a poser. Which of course, everyone else was to begin with.
Like most other Maori, she wishes tourists and the trendy would respect what the tattoos are saying and not try to warp them into fashion statements.
"Even though it's expressed through art on the skin, it's very much about belonging," she said. "And if you don't belong, you shouldn't wear it."
None more so than the tramp-stamped among us. I digress.
But what about this notion of exclusivity? You shouldn't do something if you don't know what it means, I suppose. But we're an increasingly ornamental society, aren't we? Form with no function. Form with no context.
Or, if you prefer, you can just label to whole subject "barbaric." I know at least two readers who will do that. (Love you guys.)
Maybe the problem is our American cultural need to insist we don't have a culture and thus to celebrate "culture" - someone else's, anyone else's - because it is the only legitimate way to live. We have a culture. We just don't notice it because we live it and we've, mostly, not taken an anthropology class or looked up the definition of culture. But nevermind. It's getting to circular, isn't it.