Mind you, readers, that the last time I saw my nephew Keali'i, he was not yet into the his teens or, if he was, he had just started. So when I saw him for the first time in nearly twenty years, I was stunned. There, in the blindingly bright Kāneʻohe sunlight, where once I had remembered a boy, stood a man.
My first glimpse of his tattoos was at a time when I wasn't thinking much about ink - a sad occasion that gives everyone a bit of perspective, in the bright shadows between the living and the dead.
It wasn't until later that evening, as small glasses with clear liquor were raised in honor of a departed husband, father, and grandfather, when the talk of tattoos began.
I had known Keali'i had ink, but I never realized how much. He has two full sleeves and he kindly shares them here.
His left arm is distinguished by a black and gray depiction of a skeletal warrior king presiding over a dark domain. Skulls are prevalent in the flowing piece that runs the full length of the arm:
The depiction of the great Hawaiian king, Kamehameha the Great, is a popular element in many tattoos for people honoring the history of Hawai'i.
The traditional warrior helmet on the skeleton signifies that this is an undead Kamehameha, a twist on the cultural and historical icon that makes the dark side of Keali'i so unique.
Keali'i's right arm contrasts the left with an explosion of color:
My nephew's full Hawaiian name is Keali'i 'O ka Moana, which translates to "Chief of the Ocean". And he lives up to this moniker, being an avid fan of surfing, diving, and fishing. Embracing his love of the sea, Keali'i adorned this side of his body with the bright vibrant colors of the ocean reefs, with multi-hued corals, anemones, and other sea life, including a fish and an octopus.
Unfortunately, the bottoms of Keali'i's arms are darker than the tops, a fact that he grudgingly accepts as the cost of being in the sun so much, combined with having naturally darker skin to begin with.
His artist, Billy Whitney from 808 Tattoo Studio, has scolded him, Keali'i told me, but he swears up and down he can't help it.
Regardless of the visibility of some of this work, it's still wonderfully done and was great to see in person after hearing so long about his great tattoos.
I want to say a big mahalo to my nephew, Keali'i, for sharing his sleeves with us here on Tattoosday!
Previously in the "Tattoosday Goes to Hawai'i - All in the Family" series:
Part 1, A Preface.