This article aims to show you the story what is really the traditional art, and the difference between each tattoo style.
To explain this style of design is important in the world and do not copy the tattoos of traditional artists, each tattoo composition is unique to the person who wears it and is related to his personal story.
We do not have the vocation to teach you all the history that is really long and full of legend, there are websites or books of historian specialize in this area that do very well.
We just want to explain to our customers the differences between Polynesia, Samoan, Maori and other big tattoo stories around the world.
We call it ‘Tatau‘, and according to legend, it was brought to Samoa by two sisters.
The story is beautifully preserved in the traditional, chant-like song: O le Vi’i o le Tatau Samoa.
The Samoans are credited as the only Polynesians that have continued the tradition of the tatau from the time of first European contact throughout recent times under heavy foreign influence.
There are so many aspects of the Pe’a and Malu that one could true dedicate a book to write a summary about the tatau and a life to learn and understand what the tatau truly is as an art form, its place in Fa’a Samoa (samoan culture), and within the lives and traditions of Samoan people. I will start by writing on the orgins of the Samoan tatau which has been passed down orally through legends and song.
Samoa,Toga (Tonga), and Fiti (Fiji) had much interaction while having individual cultres. Although Samoa and Toga are closer in culture and people look more similar to that of Fiti, Samoan legend attributes many things to both Toga and Fiti, the tatau being one of them.
The tatau was originally brought over to Samoa from Fiti by two sisters Taema and Tilafaiga. This story is often heard in the Tatau Samoa Song . The two women who traveled from Fiti to Samoa singing to let the women have the tatau and the not the men. Upon reaching Falealupo they saw a large clam in the water and swam below to see it. By the time they reached the water’s surface, their song had changed to let the men have the tatau and not the women.
This picture shown above is from an engraving of a Tongan man’s thigh. This picture, drawn from life during Captain Dumont d’Urville’s voyage of the Astrolabe, is the only visual account left of a traditional Tongan male tattoo.
Captain d’Urville became immortalized later in life for his discovery of the Venus de Milo on Melos.
This is a passage of the history of the Tatatau(tattoo) which is of the traditional tattoo’s of Tonga. Tatatau is made of two words, Ta (to strike) and tatatau (similar, repeatedly) literally to strike repeatedly.
The tradition of tattooing in Tonga was abandoned soon after European contact and the arrival of missionaries. At one time, nearly all Tongan males would have worn tattoos very similar to the pea, or traditional tattoo worn by Samoan men. Women were tattooed as well in ancient Tonga, however the designs were limited to the arms and the inside of the hands and fingers. Tattooing was officially outlawed in 1838.
Today, few Tongans even realize that their ancestors wore tattoos, not only has the art been lost over the past two centuries, but even the knowledge of it is gone as well. Tonga’s story is interesting, and quite different from the other Island groups in Polynesia, as Tonga has always remained independent. It seems Tongans were amazingly smart. Very soon after European contact Tongans styled their own monarchy after that of their visitors.
They retained their own land and rule, and readily adopted Christianity. Although they retained many aspects of their traditional culture, other aspects have been lost entirely; lost even in the memories of the last elders. Knowledge of the old gods, the ancient religion, and the tattoo are gone forever. Fortunately one of the early French explorers, Dumont d’Urville included a detailed illustration of a Tongan mans tattoo in his journal. If it were not for this drawing we would know little about the appearance of the tattoo in Tonga.
There are brief descriptions of tattooing found in other explorers journals, and a short article published in 1900 by H. Ling Roth, but little else was recorded or written on the Tongan tattoo.
The mans tattoo in Tonga was done in the same manner as the Samoan tattoo. The tool itself was a sharpened comb, made of either bone or shell. This was hafted onto a wooden handle. A second wooden tool served as a mallet, tapping the primary tool repeatedly, driving the comb into the skin. The pigment was soot collected from burning candlenut, a nut with a flammable oil. The soot was then mixed with either water or a fat until it reached the desired consistency. The process of tattooing in ancient Tonga was a long and painful one, particularly considering the amount of heavy black
coverage in the tattoo. It was definitely a mark of manhood.
Change of Rules: Abolishment of Traditional Tattoos in Tonga
The advent of Christianity in Tonga witnessed the loss of several indigenous practices such as the practice of tatatau or tattooing. Although the art of tattooing was retained in the nation of Samoa, it was completely erased in Tonga. However, the art and practice of tattooing has been enjoying a revival in Tonga in recent years.
Was the year that King Siaosi Tupou I began devising laws that would eventually outlaw and eradicate traditional Tongan tattooing. After his conversion to Christianity, many traditional practices that were not favored by Christian values were deemed unnecessary, heathenistic, or pagan; even though he himself had been tattooed in the traditional manner. Though the practice of tatatau quickly vanished in Tonga, Tongan chiefs, especially those of the Kanokupolu line, continued to travel to Upolu and Savai’i to get tattooed. Samoa had not abandoned the practice, and Tongan
chiefs, because of their status, still felt somewhat exempt by the new laws/codes that now governed regular Tongan society.
The tattoo that is practiced all over the world today has various origins, but the etymological origin of the word is Polynesian.
Indeed the art of tattooing is intrinsically linked to the Polynesian culture. It translates “what is deepest in man.
In the Marquesas for example, it is the skin that makes the Enata, which makes it human, mortal and not just spirit.
She is her image and the expression of her identity that reflects the past, and reveals the future of a lineage that dates back to the dawn of time.
The tattoo had been transmitted by the ancients, deified ancestors, gods and one had to be worthy of it, to prepare himself physically there.
To divert this art, and its motives, from their original destination, was certainly to risk their courage. The history of tattooing (tatau) is very difficult to trace, because even if it is an ancestral practice, it can not yet be accurately located in time.
The origin of the word tattoo comes from Oceania.
It is in fact the British captain James Cook, at the end of the eighteenth century, who brings back from his travels in Polynesia the term tattoo.
The word tattoo comes from Polynesia.
The word tatau is common in many Polynesian cultures.
In Tahitian tatau means “to strike”, which derives itself from the expression “TA-ATUA”, combination of the root “TA”, literally “drawing inscribed in the skin”, and the word “ATUA”, which means mind. It was in 1769 that the word tattoo made its entry into everyday language, and in 1858 the word was officially “francisé” and thus appeared in the dictionary Littre.
According to legend in Polynesia, the tattoo is of divine origin. Indeed, during the Po3, the practice of tattooing was created by the two sons of the god Ta’aroa: Mata Mata Arahu and Tu Ra’i Po.
The two brothers were part of a group of artisans who were also part of another god, that of skill, and Hina Ere Ere Manua, daughter of the first man.
When Hina Ere Ere Manua became a pahio, the two gods fell in love with it. To seduce her they invented the tattoo, adorn themselves with a motive called Tao Maro Mata and managed to remove the girl from the place where she had been locked since she had become a young woman, because she too was driven by desire she deceived the vigilance of her “prison” to get a tattoo.
This is how the tattoo was born in Polynesia.
This practice was first used by the two sons of the god Ta’aroa, then they passed on their knowledge to the men who found this practice very interesting and used it in abundance. The two brothers Mata Mata Arahu and Tu Ra’i Po thus became the gods of tattooing.
Source Wikipedia. you can find a lot of website that talks about this subject or books that tells the story of tattooing.