Vanuatu: Ambae: Tattoos

Tattoos were a vital part of the social life of Ambae. It was a mandatory ritual for both men and women to be tattooed based on their social status. The men were tattooed with special designs based on their rank in the society. Women were tattooed based on the rank of their father; the higher the rank, the more tattoos on their body. Some women were covered with tattoos from neck to ankle. The tattoos were done using a needle that was made of two orange thorns bound to a stick. The ink was made from the nangae nut tree. The tattoo design was first drawn with a point dipped in the color. The permanent tattoo was then created by tapping the needle dipped in the ink with a stick. Women made these tattoos and they were traditionally paid in pigs for their services. The practice originated in the northern part of the island, but came to a halt upon the arrival of the missionaries.