5 Questions with Julia Fanua

Celine Spence, Public Relations

Senior Julia Fanua speaks about getting her malu, a tattoo that is part of her Samoan culture, during her freshmen year and what it symbolizes to her and to her culture.


Q1: How old were you when you got your tattoos and how was the experience?

A1: It was in the month of May, my freshmen year of high school, when I was 14. The experience is one that I will never forget. It was 2 days of pain. It was done the old fashioned way with a stick full of a comb of needles and a wooden stick. The tattooist struck the back of my leg, and I still remember the sounds of the “ticks” the instruments made. It was a painful experience, but it was worth it.


Q2: What do your tattoos symbolize and why did you choose the particular design you have?

A2: The tattoo is called a malu. It is a sacred tattoo for Samoan girls that is not supposed to be shown to grab attention and show off. It is a humble piece of work that should only be shown when a girl is carrying out the responsibilities of the Samoan culture. The malu symbolizes the role of a Samoan woman and how she is to serve – serve God, serve Samoa, and serve her family. It is a huge honor for the Samoan female to have, and it brings honor upon her family. I didn’t choose the designs. The tattooist chooses the designs. When getting the malu, the tattooist is in full control. There are no questions to be asked. The tattooist knows what he’s doing.


Q3: Do any other members of your family have them?

A3: On my mom’s dad’s side, many of the women have it. Also, my older sister who came here [Downey High School] last year has a malu too. We got our malus together.


Q4: What makes your malu so important to you?

A4: To know that my malu is a way for me to serve God, the beautiful island of Samoa, and my family, makes this sacred tattoo important to my life. It brings honor to my family and represents my pride in being Samoan. It’s me now, and it’s such a great blessing.


Q5: Getting a tattoo is very extensive thing, was it any easy decision to make when it came to actually getting one?

A5: I knew that the malu was going to be a permanent thing; like there was really no going back once it was complete. But, the fact that this was more than some meaningless tattoo, made my decision of wanting to get my malu much easier. Knowing that my parents wanted me to get it, and it was going to be a huge honor to them and my family, made me want to get it even more. Yes, I knew pain was going to come with it, but with great honor comes pain and sacrifice. I knew the sacrifice of pain was going to be worth it though. I don’t regret my decision at all. I love Samoa, and I love my malu.