Ink Series – Boye George Louis Nicholas

Before I started the Ink Series I wrote this piece for my friend Boye Nicholas who did my first tattoo back in Rarotonga a couple of years ago.  Before I posted any other features I wanted to re-post this in memory of him …. Gone but never forgotten Boye xo 

My friend Boye Nicholas was laid to rest today in Rarotonga (04.07.11 island time)

I was immensely saddened by this news and presumed he had finally succumbed to the cancer he had been fighting for the last few years.  In 2008 he was featured on the news here in NZ as one of a number of patients who had been misdiagnosed back in the Cook Islands – he came here to seek treatment and found out he had an advanced cancerous tumour.  Miraculously he fought it and when I saw him in November last year he was looking good – better than when I’d seen him 10 years prior in fact.

When I found out he’d been killed in a motorbike accident it seemed like a kick in the guts & out of nowhere Alanis Morisettes song ‘ironic’ kept playing in my head ….. ‘its like rain on your wedding day, it’s a free ride when you’ve already paid’   …… yeah, I’d say beating cancer and then being killed in a road accident is somewhat ironic ….

I’ve known Boye for at least 20 years.  I first got to know him when he came and joined our Samoan group in Rarotonga (My family and I lived in Rarotonga for nearly 8 years)  when we were fundraising for Samoa with the damage done by Cyclone Ofa.  He  was told to be my dance partner probably because we were the same height – I’m freakishly tall & in high school none of the boys seemed to catch up until at least 7th form lol  I guess Boye was the exception.   After our family left Raro I caught up with him randomly one time we both happened to be walking down Queen street in Auckland  & then again in 2001 when I went back to Rarotonga for a holiday.  We ended up hanging out at the Avatiu clubrooms and then danced all night at TJ’s – fun times.  In between then and now he became one of the most well known & arguably the best (imo) polynesian tattooists of my generation – he was an extremely talented artist and his studio was covered in photos of the people he’d tattooed and his art/sketches.

His talent was also picked up on by Missy Elliott when she was on tour here and he had the privilege of being asked to tattoo her, which he did.

Articles on his work have appeared in Spasifik magazine.  Boye set up his own business and studio at the Punanga Nui markets in Rarotonga which he ran with the help of his brother Clive and a couple of their apprentices.  They recently had a fire which ripped through the whole studio and destroyed all of the photos and their artwork which was displayed throughout the shop.  A causes page was set up for people to send in the pictures of the tattoos he’d done for them on facebook. ‘Polynesian tattoo resurrection archive’

Inside his original studio


On my last trip to Raro, I had gone over for work and hadn’t even really thought about getting a tattoo there.  I had actually been waiting for my cousin to design & tattoo something for me (have officially given up waiting lol).  We happened to drive past the markets and I saw his shop and thought – OMG!  Boye!!  I’m going to ask him.  He knows me & he’s a friend ….. uh yeah, FINDING Boye thats another story lol  I lost count of the people telling me NOT to get tattooed by Boye – nah Penz he’s been too sick, nah Penz you should go to T, nah Penz he smokes too much weed (lol!  I heard he does his best work when he’s high haha)  Those people probably didn’t realise the more they told me NOT to go to him, the more stubborn and determined I became to find him.

Finally found him working (for once) in the studio, he seemed a bit shocked to see me – Penz!!  Long time!  He told me to come in to see him on Friday to confirm the time on Sunday.  FAIL!!  I was at a CI Tourism forum – no way I was getting out of there to go confirm a tattoo time with my tattoo artist friend & so once again I was on a mission to find him …. hmmmm!  where would Boye be on a Saturday night?  REHAB lol!

His sister DeeDee found him at Rehab for me so we caught up over drinks and he told me about how he’d actually had a dream about me the night before I walked into his studio & so when I walked into his studio the next day he’d had a bit of a fright  – before that we hadn’t seen each other in 10 years!

‘No way’ I said – ‘thats trippy!’ Boye laughed and he said ‘Ae Penz!  Thats f*#ken out of it, you just tell me what you want done man, I’ll do it for you’

Catching up with Boye & DeeDee at Rehab


Went to see him the next day and he kept laughing and teasing me about the tattoo I already had.    In his words:  ‘Ae Penz, who did that to you?  It looks like sh*t!  You know what it looks like – it looks like a bird flew past and sh*t on your back’   hahahaha  Alriiiitey then lol!  Thanks Boye!  But that was him – straight up no B.S.  Loved that about him lol

Side note:  In 1997 I had a baby boy who died not long after he was born.  I named him Jovan Iavana Momoisea.  I wanted something done in memory of my son so a friend of a friend had tattooed a small tapa flower on my right shoulder that my sons father had designed.   It wasn’t done very well and so over time it had faded quite a bit and didn’t look very good.  This was the tattoo Boye was referring to.

I didn’t tell Boye what I wanted done – he told me he already had in mind what he was going to do so I just left it to him.  I hadn’t actually wanted anyone to do anything with the flower tattoo, as I’d got it in memory of Jovan but he did an awesome job with it (looks 100% better now) and also added 3 strands that go up to my shoulder (I think of the 3 strands as Jovan, Jirah and Rocky – my 3 sons).  While he tattooed me I remember praying for him that he wouldn’t be sick anymore & for a LONG time after, I’d throw up a prayer or 2 for him.

Because of the dream he had of me & different things, I’ve always thought it was ‘meant to be’ that he ended up being the one to tattoo me & fix up the old one I’d had in memory of Jovan …..

I’d actually planned to get him to add something on to it every time I went back for a visit and although that will never happen now, I know he’s left a legacy for his brother Clive to continue on.  It was a privilege to know him & I’m so grateful that I was able to spend some time with him on my last trip & that I was blessed to have one of his tattoos.

When I told Dad he’d passed away, Dad said he had always really liked Boye & that he was a genuine guy.  So true!  He was never one to B.S. you – he was always straight up and cheeky and just one of those really likeable people.

I’m really going to miss seeing you when I go back to Raro Boye, won’t quite be the same without you!  Thanks for the tatt xo Loves for you much – Penz xo

Like his brother Clive posted:  We have lost a solder but God has gained an angel.

Rest easy my friend xo

Finished product & last time I saw Boye …

Dedicated to Boye George Louis Nicholas 12.03.75 – 02.07.11 & Jovan Iavana Momoisea 08.05.97

Found this tribute video to Boye on youtube too – RIL my friend:

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8 responses to “Ink Series – Boye George Louis Nicholas

  1. Kia Orana Penina, not sure if you remember me but I’m Ed’s little big sister Kura Karika. Just wanted to say I enjoyed reading your blog abouy Boye and that he did my tattoo about 10YEARS ago and yep he was…Happy when i went and was shitting my pants when he did mine but20mins later my tatt was done.and i loved it. So glad I can say that Boye did my tattoo. Great tribute..much love from Raro……Kura xoxo

    • Kia Orana Kura, yes, of course I remember you! Thanks for that! Appreciate it heaps! He was a real character as well as an awesome tattooist aye? Sooo glad I got mine done by him especially now that he’s gone. Love to you & everyone in Raro. Say hey to Ed for me :) Take care – Penz xo

  2. Kia orana. Awesome blog & tribute to keep our bro alive in our thoughts & hearts. I wonder what kind of tatt he’s doing on the angels…..might even be working on the big man himself….lol
    See you in the next bro….

  3. I know this is quite a while ago, but thank you for this. Reading things and stories like this that people have of him makes it that much easier to remember him and actually accept the fact that we just don’t have him anymore. My name is Itinga Nicholas by the way. He is my dads (Albert) brother, my uncle. :)

    • You’re welcome and I’m glad you liked reading this – I know he is sadly missed and no-one would know that more than his family. Love and thoughts with you all.

  4. Hi Penz, Didi here.That’s very sweet of you to share and totally agree with you on the bro, totally agree…hahaha.. Boye will always be Boye… straight up and always on the move for everything in life..Going down memory lane..I remember almost loosing my job back in 2009 because he hassled me 2days to get quarantee permit from Authorities here to have his pup dog ‘Rosie’ transferred to Raro from NZ. He called my boss a few times informing him that ‘his sister’ keeps hanging up on him…true I did but to shut him up, I eventually got him what he wanted…and worst, I lended him over a grand of my children’s savings to pay for Rosie’s travel permit…no kidding…he paid me back eventually, through installments, 6months later..LOL…Stubborn bastard but always had a big heart for all of us and so for his friends from all over, no one can deny that. He’s my brother, my friend, my pain and my idol…missing him forever…

    • Hey Didi girl, good to hear from you! I was wondering if you ever got to see this cos you’re in it too lol! Yeah, man I was real gutted & SAD when I found out he’d gone. He’d been a real cool friend and I’m sure it must be a thousand times harder for you guys as his family. Hey and thanks for finding him for me that night! Rehab ftw haha! #NeverForgotten Love to you and the family Didi xx catch you up next time I’m back :)

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