TOEFL Listening exercise 3




Professor – Since there is no writing in the Polynesian culture, the Polynesians use this art full of distinctive signs to express their identity and personality. Tattoos would indicate status in a hierarchy society, sexual maturity, genealogy, and one’s rank within society. Nearly everyone in ancient Polynesian society was tattooed. Shortly after the missionaries’ arrival in 1797, the practice was strictly banned, as the Old Testament forbids it. In recent years, however, the art of tattooing has enjoyed a renaissance in the early 1980s. Polynesians are once again taking pride and interest in their cultural heritage, finding their identity in the revival of many lost arts. Tattooing with traditional tools was then banned in French Polynesia in 1986 by the Ministry of Health due to the difficulty in sterilizing the wooden and bone equipment. The early Spanish explorer, Mendana, discovered the Fenua Enana Islands in 1595 and baptized this archipelago Marquises Islands. But these first descriptions of Polynesian tattooing were written almost two centuries later by English Captain Samuel Wallis, French explorer Bougainville, and English Captain Cook. Wallis had noticed that this was a universal custom among men and women to get their buttocks and the back of their thighs painted with thin black lines representing different figures. The next year, Bougainville reported that women of Tahiti dyed their loins and buttocks a deep blue. Captain Cook, returning from his trip to the Marquises Islands, wrote in his diary: “They print signs on people’s body and call this tattow.” According to the mythology, the two sons of the God of creation, Ta’aroa, taught the art of tattooing to humans. It was a tapu, or sacred art form. It was performed by shamans who were highly trained in the religious ritual, the meaning of the designs, and technical aspects of the art. The designs and their location on the body were determined by one’s genealogy, position within the society, and personal achievements. In preparation for the tattooing, one would have to undergo a period of cleansing. This generally involved fasting for a specified length of time and abstaining from having sexual intercourse or contact with women. Tattooing was begun at adolescence. Teenagers around 12 years old were tattooed to mark the passage between childhood and adulthood. Different tattoos were added with the passing of years. More a man was tattooed, the more prestige he had. Tattoo was not only a sign of wealth but also a sign of strength and power. Therefore, chiefs and warriors generally had the most elaborate tattoos. Men without tattoo were despised, whereas those whose bodies were completely tattooed, the to’oata, were generally admired. Girls’ right hand was tattooed by the age of 12. Only after that were they allowed to prepare the meals and to participate in the rubbing of dead bodies with coconut oil. The tattoos of women were less extensive than the tattoos seen on men, generally being limited to the hand, arms, feet, ears, and lips. Women of rank or wealth may have had their legs tattooed as well.