If you have ever watched rugby, the WWE or caught a glimpse of Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, you may have noticed those captivating black patterns adorning their bodies. Some will call these tribal tattoos but they are in fact Polynesian tattoos and when it comes to Polynesian tattoo, the Samoan “tatau” is one of the most traditional and sought after.
Dating back more than 2,000 years, the “tatau” is deeply tied into Samoa’s roots and only performed by the village’s “tufuga ta tatau” (master tattooists). A traditional “tatau” is done using a set of very basic handmade tools including pieces of bone, turtle shell and wood sticks. No numbing cream or comfortable chairs here...
Whilst a few modern tattoo parlours in Samoa’s capital city (Apia) will welcome the island’s visitors, the ritual male tattoo known as “Pe'a”, is only performed the traditional way as it is both representative of tribal standing and a way to represent values of cultural importance. Simply liking the way that they look is not a good enough reason to get inked. Honouring the culture and the history behind this type of tattoo is essential.
Young men coming out of puberty are given their tattoos as a way to ritualise their transition into adulthood. This process can take weeks or months and the tattoo represents the courage and perseverance that the wearer endured. Painful? Hell yes… The practice epitomises the concept of “no pain, no gain”, however, the beauty and rich history behind the “tatau” are beyond words and the fact that it is still alive today is a testament to how important it is to Samoans.
We will let your imagination work out the more gruesome details of the process. For now we leave you with this very neat little video showcasing a collection of stunning “Pe’a”.
Click here to watch the video.