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Learning the Art of Traditional Tattooing on the Cook Islands

Englishman Croc Coulter lives in Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean. He has become a master of the traditional Polynesian art of tātatau—an ancient tattooing process that involves using handmade tools of bone or tusks and ink to mark the skin. The artistry is to be bestowed or handed down in a ceremony, but the apprentice must first fit the bill. In this short film by Robert George, we learn how respect for tradition, tools, and designs are what will keep tātatau alive.

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the world and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. To submit a film for consideration, please email The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.