The design that shown to me was a dragon. The face of the dragon was on Michael’s chest and the body was uniquely drawn in the shoulder blades. Likewise, the tail enveloped his entire upper left arm. It was only in black ink and it has no other color.
According to Michael, he thought of the placement as the left portion of his chest and to be expanded to his shoulder blade and upper left arm because, it was initially perceived that the heart is likewise situated almost adjacent to the left portion of the chest. Therefore, this placement is an indication that the image represents whatever he believes or hopes to achieve in life, comes from his heart; and to be exhibited through the mighty power of the dragon.
Michael indicated that the choice for having a tattoo was not at the spur of the moment. The circumstances surrounding the process evolved through time. He actually thought of having a tattoo since he was very young, say, about 12 to 13 years old. By then, he was already figuring out the design, when he would eventually decide to have one, sometime in the future. When he became friends with a group of teen-agers with motorcycles, they eventually decided to have a tattoo as a symbol of their friendship. Thus, when he was 18 years old, he had the dragon tattoo drawn in the location indicated above.
The experience of Michael was far from the experiences of receiving Samoan tatua done by a tufunga. It was learned that “a tatatau of Samoan origin was considered more esteemed than one completed by a Tongan tufunga. This was largely due to the origins of chiefly lineages in Tonga connecting to Manua and Upolu; and because of a divine birthright bestowed on certain Samoan tattoo families like Sua” (Manulua par. 16). Thus, the design, placement and the person doing the tattoo has different meanings, as well as levels of expertise in the Tongan tradition.