Traditional tattoo designs are no longer preserved for our own people in the Solomon Islands.

More than that, international tourists or visitors are now getting tattoos resembling our traditional designs. In contrast, local tattoo artists are on increase and have been recognized for their work on body art.

For this reason, on 21 February duo female youths from Greece; Agapi Gkouleke, 19 and Antonia Markoviti, 24 – whom are representative members of the Greece delegation attending the Ship for World Youth Leaders program (SWY) arrived in Honiara on board Nippon Maru cruise ship. SWY program is the biggest youth exchange program in the World.

Upon arrival they decided to have similar amounts of body ink resembling Solomon Islands tradition markings.

The duo are part of the eleven young Greek men and women have set sail to foreign shores in January this year, on a journey that previous participants in the experience say will change their lives.

The 11 have been representing Greece on the Ship for World Youth, the biggest youth exchange program in the world. The initiative has been organized by the government of Japan since 1988 and is being carried out in Greece in cooperation with the General Secretariat for Youth and Lifelong Learning.

Agapi Gkouleke, is a Biomedical Science student in the Agricultural University of Athens, and Antonia Markoviti, Law student at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki; she will be graduating this July 2019.

Now both share the tales behind their Solomon Islands tradition markings.

"We met during this SWY and some people said we look alike, so we got this joke that we are sisters and we wanted to share something that we’ll represent in our own way, both of us and make a crazy adventure. We met Fred Oge (local temporary and tattoo artist) upon our arrival in Honiara, we learnt that he is one of the best artist here-we got a bit triggered and said Okay maybe this is the moment.We also want to get something local, something tribal as they call it, and so when we saw these designs, we both immediately went for it, just because it is polygonic, minimal and represents the culture at its best aspect. It’s a compass and four beds flying for the four parts of the horizon. We are both travelers and it really represents both of us, " says Antonia

"We think it really represents us and plus it’s the first tattoo for the both of us so it’s like the coolest story ever- that we got our first tattoo in Honiara and it’s like a traditional tattoo, it’s amazing," says Agapi.

"It’s been a unique experience. Everything here is so different other than back home. I like the exotic vibe and I believe every other fellow traveler loved it as well. We went to the National Art Gallery and I really like the artworks done by the Artists here," shares Agapi.

"I also appreciate the positive vibes, the smiles of the people and the dances. Every culture has their own dances, but what I got from the ones we saw here – the Melanesians, Micronesians, and Polynesians, they are happy dances. I could feel that when these people are smiling and dancing, they share good vibes. The melody was positive and that made my day here. I really also appreciate the location of this country. It’s full of fruit trees and reaching the Solomon Islands, it gave me a historic moment for me because it is where I first saw a Mango tree. We eat mangoes that we import but we never grow mango trees," shares Antonia.

"It’s crazy thing and they both agree on that. It was our first time in Asia. We went to Japan, Palau, and Australia and now we are here in the Solomon Islands (21 February 2019). It’s been a unique experience; everything is so different other than back home. I like the exotic vibe and I believe every one of the travelers loved it," shares Agapi.

"The program is very diverse because it is divided in both academic and educational systems, where we learn about the media, environment, global citizenship, and many other topics but as the same time, there is a big focus on culture. Am very thankful that they had the chance to travel to the opposite side of their world, learning and discovering different cultures and making memories," says Antonia.