Everything will pass after death, only the tattoos will remain; they will outlive you.

A human will leave all and everything behind on earth, all his/her belongings; only the tattoo will be taken to the grave.’ But tattoos also displayed the beauty of the islands’ inhabitants and animals for all to see.

In Fiji, tattooing is only performed by and for women, and is chiefly confined to the parts of the body which are covered by the liku or grass skirt.

ancient mariners speaking an Austronesian tongue arrived in the western islands of Micronesia (Marianas, Yap, and Babelthuap) from insular Southeast Asia. For their new lives among the coral atolls and volcanic peaks, they transported seeds, domesticated animals, and agricultural implements.

Several centuries later another seafaring people, the Lapitas, moved further east from the New Britain/Admiralty Island area to Polynesia, reaching Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. They also told stories about the descent of chiefs from gods, the voyages of ancestral heroes, and myths of creation.

The fine blackwork matched the darkness of the sea and the feathers of seabirds like the black noddy and frigate.

Intricate curving lines mimicked the striped patterns of the Regal Angelfish (), and many other motifs like ‘mast,’ ‘canoe,’ ‘clouds,’ and ‘ocean swells’ related to the seafaring nature of these Argonauts of the western Pacific.

Whether aristocrat or commoner, Marshallese tattoos also signified rank and people could identify a chief () were restricted to women of the same status.

(Similar instances of finger tattooing among high ranking women have also been documented in Fiji.) In addition to these tattoos, noble women who could afford them also wore tattoos on their shoulders called (from the tail of the frigate bird), chest, and a ‘secret’ tattoo on the vulva in a fashion similar to tattooing customs elsewhere in Micronesia (e.g., Palau, Pohnpei, Ulithi) and Fiji; these tattoos were inked by female tattoo artists.

Like all of the peoples of Oceania, the inhabitants of these isolated shores were skilled navigators and traders, a circumstance which has contributed to a marked homogeneity throughout much of the region.

Some of the cultural attributes of Micronesian peoples seem to be analogous with those of both Melanesia and Indonesia, such as large decorated ceremonial houses, highly developed textiles, the presence of clans and a class system, expertly designed ocean canoes, and diverse forms of material and ceremonial culture – including weaponry, the belief in nature spirits, and the divine origins of tattooing.

Tattooing is found throughout Oceania, and the almost bewildering diversity of artistic styles, patterns, and motifs makes it difficult at first to recognize any forms as recurrent and as basic to the art of this vast area as a whole.

But a closer examination of tattoo mythology reveals a recurring theme: that most of the designs are derived from nature and the art itself was a gift from the gods.

The ancestors were invoked to help guide the ceremony, making visible a genealogy of design and descent.