Polynesian tattoos on the Canary Islands? Meet Roberto Gemori

Art and culture

The History of Tenerife, the Hawaii of Europe and
a Preserver of Polynesian Art

An archipelago formed by the power of volcanoes.
Metre-high waves that break off rugged coasts and make the heart of every surfer beat faster.
Paradisiacal landscapes whose diversity ranges from exotic green to the barren volcanic desert.
There are many reasons why Tenerife is nicknamed “the Hawaii of Europe” by connoisseurs.
Another reason is provided by Roberto Gemori.

The 45-year-old Italian moved to the island five years ago to raise his three children far away from the hustle and bustle and the changeable weather of Italy. He had something in his luggage that you rarely find: the knowledge of a centuries-old culture and art that still fascinates people all over the world today. Roberto is an expert on Polynesian tattoos.

What astonishes at first seems even more impressive the longer you think about it. As an Italian and without family ties to Polynesia, he occupies an important position in the world of the highly esteemed sacred tradition of Polynesian tattoos. Even locals thank him for bringing them closer to the history and significance of tattoos as a fundamental part of their culture.

Roberto had already spent 20 years of his life studying every fragment, no matter how small, around this meaningful form of body jewellery. A masterpiece, considering the existence of different styles as well as the often incomplete

knowledge left of the traditional practices. Colonial powers suppressed the tattoo art in many parts of Polynesia in the past, idealistic lone fighters like Roberto keep it alive today.

The reasons for his fascination are as varied as the Polynesian tattoos themselves. If you look at the drawings, you don’t just see aesthetically appealing natural symbols such as turtles or geometric shapes.The combination of different figures expresses messages, sometimes even complete stories. The focus is often on essential elements such as the contrast between light and dark

(i.e. life and death, past and present/future or good and evil). In the original sense, Polynesian tattoos give the wearer status, protection and belonging. The modern age appreciates them as an extraordinary and optically very appealing form to immortalize important messages as body jewelry.

Even more fascinating, however, is how Roberto’s eyes shine when he talks about Polynesian tattoos. He was lucky enough to turn his passion into his profession. He has written books on the theory and practice of Polynesian tattoo art.

The latest of these has just been published in November this year. His main activity, however, is creating individual tattoo designs.

If you want to decorate your body with a Polynesian motif and make sure it really expresses the meaning you want, you can contact him directly through his website TattooTribes.com. All Roberto needs is a text (the longer, the better) about you and how you imagine your tattoo. So you can reflect your idea as you write – and Roberto as he reads. His knowledge, his years of experience, his drawing talent, a pencil and the inspiration of a walk on the beaches of Tenerife do the rest. Where else can you find better energy to create Polynesian tattoos than in a wild, beautiful nature, which is very similar to their homeland.

Once transferred into digital form, you can use the Polynesian tattoo to go to the tattoo artist of your choice and have it done. Or take it as a special element in your home decoration. Or find your very own way of using it. 

Roberto has not taken this step yet. Although he has had it in his mind every day for over 20 years, no Polynesian tattoo adorns his skin.
The reason? Although he is telling stories every day in the form of artistic drawings for others, he could not see his very own motif for a long time.

Until a few months ago he saw himself in a dream with them. So Roberto will soon be one of the proud bearers of a body art that honours nature and the roots of humanity and thus perhaps has an even greater relationship to the Macaronesian islands than it seems at first glance.

Where to find Roberto:



The Maka editorial team did not hesitate to ask Roberto for an individual design.
You can see the result here:

TIKI: protection
KAMEHAMEHA PATH: difficult path that leads to success
SUN: success, stability
BIRD: high perspective, travel
BRAID: union
ETUA: divinity
IPU: mana (strength, authority)
SHARK TOOTH: power and protection
FISHES: prosperity
SPEARHEAD: warrior, strength, courage

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