"Hongi" is the Maori tradition of a greeting where two people press noses and breathe in. It's an ancient ritual where the two exchange "ha", the breath of life. When hongi is done with a visitor, they are no longer a visitor. Instead they become one with the people.
My version here called for me to change the boy in the original photo to a young Samoan boy. My client is Samoan and his girlfriend Maori. This is a gift for her. He had asked for a painting of kids so I thought why not paint a Maori tradition that a Samoan boy is performing. So here we have the Maori girl initiating the Samoan boy into her people in the act of Hongi. I like the boy's expression; he sort of has a "I'd only do this for you" type of face as if he finds the tradition silly but loves the girl enough to take part in it.
If you know any Polynesians, you also know we like to tease each other about the other culture' traditions. But behind the jokes, there is a deep respect and appreciation for them all. We as a Polynesian people are connected in many ways: different, but the same.