Thursday, October 28, 2010

Internal Tattoos

As we travel to distant places we all struggle to find our place within foreign lands. At times, we all may be confronted with feelings of awkwardness, uneasiness, and confusion. However, as Wendt demonstrates within his works “Tatauing the Post- Colonial Body” and “ The Cross of Soot,” as human beings we all have the ability to submerge ourselves and be accepted within a world different than our own. In both of his works, Wendt uses the tattooing process to symbolize how travelers can embark on an external journey and come out of it tattooed internally.

Within his work “Tatauing the Post-Colonial Body,” Wendt writes “many non-Samoans have been tataued. It is incorrect to think that you cannot be tataued unless you are Samoan or connected by blood and title to Samoan aiga” (408). Later, he builds upon this point when he writes of Elsie Bach, an older woman who was one of the most successful volunteers the nation had ever seen. Throughout her time spent in Samoa, she marked her connection to the land on her body when she accepted her malu tattoo. As Wendt writes, “the malu was the bloodletting that allowed her to be connected to Samoa, to aiga, a culture she admired” (409). As Bach let the ink onto her body, she also allowed herself to fully become a part of the Samoan culture. Through her service, Bach broke down all feelings of “other-ness” and crossed any cultural lines that may have existed. Although she eventually returned to America, her tattoo marks her external journey, which changed her life for the better.

Similar to Bach, the young boy in “The Cross of Soot” travels into a world different than his own. As he spends his days at the prison, the young boy learns about the community and becomes apart of it. He knows when he should act, when he should keep quiet, and when he should ask questions. However, although he is aware that he is a “foreigner,” the boy continuously makes an effort to connect with the members of the community. In his work, “The Cross of Soot,” Wendt uses the boy to demonstrate how we all have the ability to make connections with others. As the boy gets a tattoo from Tagi, he also is marking on his body how this external journey has changed him. As the young boy leaves the prison, Wendt writes “he paused on the other side and looked back as if he had forgotten something- as if he had crossed from world to another, from one age to the next” (20). At the end of his visit, the young boy has not only become a member of an alternative world, but the experience has also led to his internal journey of growing up. Like Bach, the tattoo the young boy has on his hand will forever mark the external journey which changed him forever.

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