O kemuni mai vei?

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Images of indigenous women have often been framed solely through the white male gaze and much can be said about the gendered and western gaze on the women embodied in archival photographs/images and the loss of historical context.

 

If you search online for ‘Fiji tattoo women’, these two images will feature in your search results. Incorrectly identified as one woman, they are in fact two different women.

These illustrations of Ra Ege from Tawaleka, [Nadroga] and Nudua from Matawalu, [Ba] were made by German naturalist and artist Theodor Kleinschmidt in the late 1870s.

Ra Ege from Tawaleka, wears a liku (skirt) and carries a bamboo water container. She is fully tattooed from below her belly button, loins and buttocks, and mid way down her thighs. She has also been tattooed around her lips, and has a star tattooed on her checks. A line of tattooing runs up her arm and across her chest, just below the collar-bones.

Nudua was a young widow from Matawalu. Like Ra Ege, she also wears a liku (skirt). However, only her loins and buttocks are tattooed, ending just before her mid thighs. A line of chevrons runs up her arm, and a star tattooed on her check.

(Information from Kleinschmidt, T. (1984). “Theodor Kleinschmidt’s Notes on the Hill Tribes of Viti Levu, 1877-1878.” Domodomo 2(4): 146-190)

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