Solomon Islands: Rennell & Bellona: Tattoos

Rennell and Bellona is a province of the Solomon Islands. It is composed of three atolls, the inhabited Rennell and Bellona, and the uninhabited Indispensable Reef. Rennell and Bellona are raised atolls, which have been lifted above sea level by volcanic activity. Rennell Island is the second largest coral raised atoll in the world. The first Polynesian sailors settled there as early as four thousand years ago. However, according to the legend, people from another culture had already inhabited the province before them.


In Polynesian culture, tattoos were regarded as sacred: during fights it was considered unacceptable to hit a person on their tattoos. Having the whole body covered in tattoos was considered prestigious and celebrations were organized whenever men had new tattoos applied. The Polynesian art of tattoos started to decline with the arrival of missionaries who told the local population that their body belonged to God so they should not cover it with tattoos.