Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is an actor and a mostly-retired professional wrestler who has an affinity for tattoos, the most impressive of which is an intricate Polynesian tribal design that covers the left side of his chest and his left shoulder and arm in a half-sleeve design. With a father of Black Nova Scotian descent and a mother of Samoan heritage, The Rock has a rich history that he represents fully in his tribal arm tattoo.
In addition to his Polynesian ink, which obviously has an incredibly important and personal meaning for the actor, Johnson also has a tattoo on his upper right arm of a bull, which is a reference to his old nickname "The Brahma Bull."
Johnson’s Polynesian chest and arm tattoo was done in early 2003, by a famous Tahitian tattoo artist named Po’oino Yrondi, on a trip to Hawaii the then-30-year-old took to have his family history inked on his body—a Samoan tradition. Johnson wasn’t alone in getting the symbolic tribal tattoo though. According to Dwayne, his cousin Tanoa’i also got inked, and they got together with other cousins, friends and family members to play music and talk about the story of their heritage, in order to take their minds off getting such painful tattoos.
“The story of my [chest and arm] tattoo is a very elaborate story,” Johnson once said during an interview, “[It represents] all the things that are important to me, that I love and that I’m passionate about.” Dwayne and his tattoo artist apparently talked for hours and then said a prayer before even starting his intricate tribal tattoo, which took a total of 60 hours, split up into three different sessions of 20 hours a piece. According to Johnson, the chest and arm tattoo is a story about his life and journey, but bigger than that, a story about his ancestors and his culture, which play an important role in his own identity.
Another theme that was worked into the design of Dwayne Johnson’s tattoo on his chest and arm is the idea of struggle—overcoming obstacles to achieve success and being appreciative of that success without taking it for granted. To put it simply, The Rock’s tattoo comes down to three things: family, protecting his family and having “a very aggressive warrior spirit,” as he so eloquently puts it. It can be difficult to make out each individual design incorporated into Dwayne’s Polynesian tattoo, so we’ve broken down the intricate ink into all its different parts and their unique meanings:
1. Coconut leaves, denoting a Samoan chief-warrior
2. A sun, which brings good fortune
3. A/ga fa’atasi (three people in one), representing Dwayne, his wife and his daughter
4. Descending swirls representing past, present and future
5. Two eyes symbolizing his ancestors watching over his path
6. The Great Eye, used to distract the enemy in battle
7. A broken face marked by shark teeth, representing The Rock’s spirit protector and a symbol of his struggle
8. A priest and spiritual guide, symbolizing enlightenment
9. Stones of achievement and abundance, denoting the foundation of his life
10. A tortoise shell, to deflect evil spirits
Johnson’s tattoo continues onto the left side of his chest, a piece that was done after the original half-sleeve tattoo, and this portion of the tattoo features a warrior face inked over his heart, which represents Dwayne’s warrior spirit and his ability to continue fighting and overcome challenges, no matter what.
As for whether or not he plans to continue his "story" and add on to his intricate Polynesian tattoo, Johnson says, "I've got a lot of body, we could cover a lot of body." Check back with Inked to find out about Johnson’s future tattoo plans!
In the meantime, check out this gallery of amazing Polynesian tattoos.