Safe Travels Tattoo

Hei Matau Tatoo

“Safe Travels” by Dave Arruda & Rae Bastoni

I would like to present to you one of my first pieces of artwork entitled “Safe Travels.” This drawing was adapted by Dave Arruda from an original, rough sketch by the artist Rae Bastoni both of Plymouth, MA. Outwardly, it appears as a conglomerate of the Maori (Native New Zealander) symbols Hei Matau (Fish Hook) and Kuro (Spiral) in traditional styling. Inwardly, the silhouette of a mermaid dominates the image with her body and tail making up the Hei Matau and her arm stretched upward to support the Kuro. The original medium is black ink on parchment with a future translation to tattoo body art in the works.

The image carries with it a great deal of symbolism in both the traditional and personal sense. Traditionally, the Hei Matau (Fish Hook) signifies strength, determination, prosperity, and good health. It’s often worn by Maori as a bone or jade pendant as a sign of respect for the sea and to provide a safe journey to travelers on the water. This symbol has always held a special place in my heart ever since I visited New Zealand in high school. I had the opportunity to spend a long weekend with a family North of Auckland and they gave me a bone Hei Matau pendant to protect me in my travels. When I returned home to the States I tied the pendant to my PFD and it still resides there to this day.

To the Maori, the Kuro (Spiral) represents new beginnings, positive change, personal growth, and hope for the future. This imagry became important to me after I got sick. Although the experience has been quite challenging it has also offered me the chance to explore deep within myself where I’ve found things that I would have never know were there. It’s hard to appreciate this now but when it’s all said and done I’m sure that this trying time will present the opportunity for a new beginning and positive change. There’s always hope!

The incorporation of the mermaid is of my own design. I chose the mermaid because it’s a symbolic of wild freedom, rebellious spirit, ferocious independence, and striking beauty; all of the things that I so desperately wanted back when I got sick. The idea of hiding her behind the Maori imagery was inspired by the hit TV show Prison Break. The main character Michael had the engineering plans for the state prison tattooed all over his body and then covers them with seemingly meaningless art. This map allows him to navigate the prison and free his wrongly-convicted brother. The fact that she’s hidden within the more obvious imagery shows us that sometimes we have to look deep inside of ourselves in order to discover our true strength and beauty. The link that she provides between the Hei Matau and Kuro shows us that sometimes the connection between the now and the future may be mysterious and uncertain but if you stay strong and hold up hope then you will prevail!

Safe Travels,



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