For many people, their introduction to the term ohana came from the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch. While this is a lovely film that uses an unlikely friendship between a young Hawaiian girl and an alien creature to demonstrate the power of this concept, in Hawaiian culture ohana is more than just a cute phrase.
On the islands of Hawaii, ohana means family, but it is not limited to the members of a nuclear family; instead, it refers to a broader network of cousins, nieces, nephews and in-laws. In fact, one’s ohana can be made up of anyone: friends, family, and coworkers all fall under the umbrella of ohana, as long as they honor and respect the collective group and care for each other.
To be part of ohana means to be part of a family, whether through blood relations or not.
There are some who say that ohana is a case of cultural construction that was invented in the 1950’s as part of a political campaign to construct a unified Hawaiian identity, however at this point the true origins of the word seem irrelevant. Ohana is as real as the waves on the beach and the trees in the hills; it unites the people on the islands in a way that transcends politics and pettiness. Ohana is family and ohana is Hawaii.
1. Black and Gray Ohana Tattoos
Tattoos, like all forms of self-expression, are personal and consideration should always be given to the style and method that will be utilized in a new piece. Some people prefer bright colors as the way to show off their vibrant personality and outgoing attitude. For others however, a more subdued approach is more in line with their sensibilities and for these folks black and gray is an excellent choice.
While black and gray work is suitable for a variety of different themes and subjects, it is particularly appropriate for these family inspired pieces, adding a sense of elegance and grace that can be difficult to achieve with a brighter color palette.
2. Lilo and Stitch Ohana Tattoos
“Ohana means family, family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” This simple phrase sums up the core of the concept of ohana, and is at the heart of this charming Disney movie. Stitch is a hybrid alien-creature created in a lab that yearns for freedom, until he escapes and hightails it to Earth, were he meets Lilo.
While intergalactic forces try to track down Stitch, Lilo—a young Hawaiian girl—through perseverance, love and the power of ohana, helps Stitch to change his ways and eventually become part of the family.
This is a lovely movie that teaches the importance of love, family and forgiveness, while the unique animation and clever humor provide a wealth of inspiration for ohana tattoos.
3. Minimalist Ohana Tattoos
Sometimes, less is more and these minimalist designs demonstrate this ethos perfectly. A talented artist is able to use a few well-placed lines, or some simple script, to perfectly capture the essential elements in a piece without the need for complex designs or intricate compositions.
This understated approach is perfect for these ohana designs thanks to a clean application and the powerful concept behind these meaningful tattoos, allowing the wearers to proudly display the importance of family in their lives.
4. Delicate Ohana Tattoos
While Western tattoo work started in the American traditional school that emphasizes bold lines—both for their stylistic appeal as well as for their penchant for longevity—many people prefer a less heavy handed approach. For these folks a delicate application of ink that is reminiscent of pen and ink sketches and fountain pen calligraphy is more appealing than the pinup girls, anchors and skulls common in American traditional flash.
Luckily for them, many artists appreciate this style and have become extremely adept at using delicate line work to create interesting designs, many of which are perfectly suited for ohana tattoos.
5. Watercolor Ohana Tattoos
A trend that has been gaining popularity in the tattoo world uses vibrant colors and a looser approach to perfectly recreate the effect of watercolor paintings applied on the skin.
Often using black ink to create an outline or add script, this approach is great for ohana tattoos thanks to the positive vibes they create and the endless possibility of concepts and elements that can be incorporated into this style.
While these bright pieces are definitely not for everyone, there is no doubt that these striking tattoos will continue to turn heads for years to come.
6. Ohana Script Tattoos
Adding script to a tattoo is a great way to take some of the ambiguity of significance out of the equation and let the observer know in the clearest of terms what the tattoo means to the wearer.
The endless variety of styles, fonts, typefaces and scripts—from block letters to the elaborate cursive of Chicano tattoos—means that there is some lettering out there for every tattoo.
7. Ohana Tattoos With Flowers
People have been getting flowers inked on their bodies for hundreds of years; roses in particular have been hanging on flash sheets in shops for about as long as there have been flash sheets, or shops for that matter.
Given the deep and varied significance we place on flowers it is no surprise that people choose to get them tattooed on their skin. Incorporating flowers into ohana tattoos is especially appropriate given the hundreds of different tropical flowers that are found on the Hawaiian Islands, particularly yellow hibiscus, the state flower.
8. Innovative Ohana Tattoos
Tattoo artists are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of ink permanently applied to skin. From the development of hyper-realistic color pieces that look like they’re jumping off the skin, to bio mechanical work that makes you do a double take, tattoos are constantly changing and evolving.
These are some great ohana pieces that allow artists to take a variety of approaches, in different styles to create unique tattoos dedicated to this Hawaiian idea of family.
9. Family Tattoos
As we now know, ohana means family, and as such it is no surprise that people choose to incorporate this Hawaiian word into tattoos that depict pictures of family members embracing each other. These sweet designs perfectly capture the essence of this concept, showing mothers and daughters, fathers and sons all caring for each other in these straightforward tattoos that demonstrate the strength of family bonds.
Ohana Tattoo FAQs
What do ohana tattoos mean?
Out of all the different things that people use to tattoos to commemorate and memorialize, family is right at the top, and in the simplest sense, ohana means family. It is no surprise then that people choose to get this Hawaiian word inked on their skin. It goes deeper than that, though. Ohana is a support network of the most important people in one’s life, whether they are blood relatives or not.
In this way ohana is more than family. Ohana eschews the concept of family being a static unit and instead treats it as a malleable group that grows and changes. On our journey through life our ohana gets larger as we meet more people who share the same values and sense of responsibility for each other, gaining new members as they present themselves.
This is why ohana pieces make for such great matching tattoos. There is no better way to demonstrate to the world that a group of people are “brothers (or sisters) from another mother” than with matching ohana inspired designs.