A key feature of Avatar: The Way of Water‘s Metkayina Clan was their intricate tattoos, which have a deeper meaning than you initially realize. Led by Tonowari and Ronal, the Metkayina Clan accepted Jake Sully and his family as refugees who needed to keep their whereabouts from the RDA a secret. The Metkayina people taught Sully and his family the ways of the sea, which became a neat way for director James Cameron to provide further insight into his alien world, Pandora. With a close relationship to water, they were a powerful breed of Na’vi whose habitat existed along the shores of the Pandoran oceans.
There were several noticeable differences between the Metkayina and mainland Na’vi in Avatar: The Way of Water. Unlike the Omaticaya and Olangi, two important Na’vi clans of Pandora, who rode Direhorses to trek the planet’s vast landscape, the Metkayina used Ilus, large plesiosaur-like sea creatures, to glide across the oceans. Another key difference was their biology. The Metkayina needed to adapt to an aquatic lifestyle. Their forearms and lower legs featured fin-like structures called “strakes,” and their broadened tails enabled them to paddle through the water. Perhaps the most striking difference between the Sea and Forest people was the Metkayina’s tattoos, which held a complex meaning.
The Metkayina Clan’s Tattoos Are A Gift From Eywa
In James Cameron’s world of Pandora, the Metkayina Clan practiced the art of tattooing their inhabitants. They were the only Na’vi group known to do so. Their tattoos held spiritual significance and were considered gifts from Eywa, a.k.a. the Great Mother within the Avatar universe’s mythology.
Tonowari, the “Olo’eyktan” (clan leader), had the most complex-looking tattoos of any person within the Metkayina, which spanned much of his body. The Metkayina markings worked similarly to song chords, each being unique to the individual and chronicling a significant event in their life. Members of the clan typically received their first tattoo after they completed “iknimaya,” all their rites of passage leading into adulthood.
Why The Placement Of The Metkayina’s Tattoos Matter In Avatar 2
From a cultural standpoint, the tattoos that the Metkayina identified with were important. However, an even more essential meaning was the location of each one on a person’s body. Tonowari, for example, had distinct markings on his face, neck, and chest, which were symbolic of safely embracing the central island, a significant landscape for Avatar: The Way of Water‘s Metkayina. The tattoos on Tonowari’s right and left shoulders represented the outer sea wall meant to protect the Metkayina from dangerous wildlife lurking within their oceans. Another key feature of the tattoos was that they helped distinguish what rank each person was within the clan.
A hunter of the deep sea would have longer, more dense tattoos on their arms and less on their chest, while someone who generally stayed within the clan’s sea wall would have the opposite. An important inspiration behind the Metkayina Clan came from the Māori, the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand. Māori actors worked with James Cameron on Avatar: The Way of Water to incorporate elements of their culture into the Metkayina Clan’s customs and traditions. Drawing from real life appeared to help Cameron, and hopefully, this interesting Na’vi group can feature again in future Avatar installments.