Since I started out on my journey one immovable object has been looming on the horizon, something I had thus far managed to avoid for my entire life but that now I would have no other choice but to be embrace: Lycra.
I have always been a fan of loose fitting clothing. But if I have to wear the stretchy stuff then I want it to be meaningful, after all I have spent thirty four years avoiding it like the plague. Finally now with a bespoke design complete and manufactured I could not have wished for more. A genuinely heartfelt thank you goes to Carrie Skeen who has created a work of art and also to Vist for producing it especially. Thank you. I am proud to wear it and tomorrow when I become the first Tongan to race at the Alpine Skiing World Championships I will carry with me over three thousand years of history and tradition.
I’ll let Carrie explain the rest.
The Kingdom of Tonga is steeped in cultural tradition, respect and ritual. The nation has a history of seafaring and war. The Tongans championed star navigation to effortlessly sail vast distances in their explorations of the largest expanses of water on the planet. They transported sufficient warriors in their double-ended Kalia war ships to conquer their neighbouring island countries – creating the most far-flung Polynesian Empire.
As with the sea, tattooing has been a part of Pacific Island cultures since the first island communities arose. Various traditions tell of different ways in which tattooing was born or brought to each island. Other stories tell of cultural heroes and gods who propelled tattooing into spiritual and political realms. But most importantly, tattooing for islanders was a unique mark signifying their inherent role within the society that raised them.
The traditional Tongan word for tattooing or skin marking is made up of two words: ta – to strike, hit, or tap; and tatau – same, similar, symmetrical, balanced.
Tatatau was a specific tradition that was both home-grown and influenced by other Pacific Island cultures. Tonga’s history is full of maritime voyages and intermarriages between island chiefdoms. Tattooing was an art that was heavily influenced by these maritime exchanges, most notably with Samoan tattooing.
Tonga adapted the unique tradition of Samoa that elevated tattooing to one of the highest symbols of manhood and societal reciprocity. Most often, these tattoos were between the waist and the knees. The evolution of the tatatau and its resurgence has also evolved to take on a deeper spiritual and cultural meaning for Tongans. The revived tradition has become a vaka, or vehicle, for reviving the past. Individuals who wear the markings serve as reminders for Tongans to hold close to their cultural traditions in the rapidly changing world. Ta Vaka has been adopted as the journey of completing the traditional Tongan tatatau. As the vaka once carried Tongans to far off destinations and served as the medium for manhood explorations, so too does wearing a traditional Ta Vaka symbolize that ancient journey from the past to the present.
THE WARRIOR DESIGN
The Warrior is based on the tradition of Tongan tatatau. It holds Kasete’s story; the journey he is currently taking, his country and culture and his family. The design represents a Tongan Warrior gifted with speed, agility, strength and flight.
His right shoulder carries his nation; the six-sided star containing the red cross. The Warrior carries his Kingdom with him, providing strength and inciting fear (sharks teeth) in his opponents.
On his left arm, the Warrior carries the support of this family; 3 wolves heads on 3 daggers, representing the bare-handed victories which provided the Skeen family with their name; the epitome of bravery and courage
Spearheads down the length of his body strike fear and deliver courage and strength. They also provide symmetry to the design.
The Warrior wears the Tongan national colours red and white and integrates the black of tatatau.
Kasete is the Warrior. His markings are a reminder to hold his culture close. The design carries his support systems, and provides the vehicle by which he will journey from past to present in this challenge. The design calls to the fearsome Tongan warriors of his ancestry to be with him. To offer him their courage, their insights and their speed.