Can you be in two places at once? Where is your ‘place’, the one space that you belong or identify with most? Do you have a heritage, or culture that draws you back to another place? Do you have other people(s) that call you back “home”? Do you have a totem? A totem is a being, spirit, or symbol that serves to unite and bring us back to our place or home. Sometimes there is no written language for this other place that you belong. Sometimes there is only oral storytelling and dreams to bind you to that group. What is your story? What is their story?
As part of Learning Event 5 in 1KB’s #walkmyworld project students had been looking at totems tattoos and their significance in different cultures and the role they play in story telling. 1KB were asked to view the following video which included the poem Horse Bones by Jon Levitt. They initially had discussed the still image of the video. They could see snowy mountains, trees, a river and a man on a horse. Zara said the country was the South Pole, Koa said Spain and Ben Canada. Michael decided the man was a cowboy because of his hat and his horse. They were then asked to watch the video and listen carefully as the poet speaks softly. You could hear a pin drop in the class as it was played. The words and phrases various students picked up on were: West, Hungry Horse, grizzly bear, bush, “I’m driving to you”, my horse, mountains, the dog…
Students then drew on their knowledge of nouns and the difference between a house and a home. Where did you feel most comfortable? Where are you loved and taken care of? Where are you happiest? Have you ever been somewhere else and wanted to come home? After this introduction the class had a special visitor, Lei (Alana’s mum), who spoke about her traditional Samoan tatau (tattoo) called a Malu.
They are a traditional tattoo only worn by the females of High Chiefs. The diamond design symbolise the parents with children above. The side column depicts the poles of a traditional Samoan home that hold it steady and keep it strong. The various other patterns symbolise extended family such as uncles, aunties and so forth with the little dots being the links that connect them all.
The tattoos were all traditionally done and it took 7 hours non stop for the master tattooist to complete. Lei told us that no matter where she was in the world she carried her whole family with her. “This is my pride” she said. It was a fantastic experience and the children were enthralled, especially the girls! Zara said “Your tattoos are amazing!”
After recess it was Natalie’s turn to show the class photos of her mum’s tattoos. The students learnt that Natalie had a Nan, who passed away in 2014, and loved roses. They also discovered that Natalie was the third oldest child in her family and that her mum loved a man called Robert so much she married him. Natalie’s mum loves her tattoos and said she was happy that society was more accepting these days of people with tattoos. “They are a work of art”