Tattoos have always been part of Solomon Islands culture and tradition. But prior to Christianity, tattooing was only done by an elite few. It was not something that everybody participated in.Tattoos were also used to show ones status in the society, it was not for show or a mere body art.
Today however, tattooing is now common with young Solomon Islanders and most tattoo themselves not for cultural or traditional reasons but to "make a statement." Most parents in the Solomon Islands disagree with tattooing as most are quite conservative, most view tattooing as a "sign of rebellion, and something that must be discouraged."
However, just a month ago a Solomon Islander has opened a professional tattoo shop in Honiara, the first of its kind.
The owner is Mr. Trevor Au'suta, a young 25 year old tattoo artist who was born and raised in the Solomon Islands, but spent the last eight years in Papua New Guinea where he picked up the art of tattooing. He stated that being a tattoo artist hasn't always been his dream, "this was because I was never too serious about it...but drawing was always a hobby of mine."
However, the one thing that inspired him was a cousin of his who recently passed away. Mr. Au'suta said that his cousin was very passionate about tattooing which eventually got him interested. He started of tattooing friends, who were very impressed with is work. Word spread and he eventually got a good amount of people showing up asking for some of his designs. That's when he knew that he might be on to something.
Mr. Au'suta was inspired enough to open his own professional tattoo shop in Port Moresby and hasn't looked back since. "I enjoy creating my own designs...I try to make my work more original but sometimes it depends on the clients and their taste," he said.
He said that having a tattoo business running in PNG is a challenge, "getting into a small business is hard and challenging but running a tattoo shop has started to pay off." His decision to be a tattoo artist has certainly paid off since he now has another tattoo shop here in the Solomon Islands.
Having attended various training courses in Australia, Mr. Au'suta also knows an important aspect of tattooing which is hygiene. He said that in Solomon Islands there are some risky practices especially with home made tattooing equipments. Speaking to Alana Hughes, who had just gotten her tattoo done, she said it was "cool to finally have a professional tattooist in town with all the right equipments...because this is for our own safety."
With just only a month in town Mr. Au'suta has already gained popularity especially amongst the youths. He says that his advantage is the fact that he puts "safety first" in all that he does.
Trevor's tattoo shop is located on the ground floor of the Anthony Saru building.