Solomon Islands: Ontong Java: Tattoos

Ontong Java Atoll, also known as “Luangiua” or “Lord Howe Atoll,” lies in the Pacific Ocean and is part of the Solomon Islands. It is composed of 122 small islands and inhabited by around 2,000 people. Polynesian sailors discovered the atoll at least 2,000 years ago. Its first cultural and commercial exchanges were with inhabitants of the neighboring Nukumanu Atoll, which now belongs to Papua New Guinea. Europeans came to the island in the 16th century.


Ontong Java inherited its languages as well as the culture of tattoos from its first Polynesian inhabitants. According to the traditional Polynesian practice of tattoo, both men and women had their body covered in deep-blue colored tattoos with different symbols, such as fish or turtles. This practice started to decline in the 1930s following the arrival of Melanesian missionaries who tried to abolish it. Since the 1980s, the practice has been completely banned throughout the Atoll.