What Does Polynesian Tattoo Mean?

What Does Polynesian Tattoo Mean
The Origins of Tattoo Art in Polynesia – Historically there was no writing in Polynesian culture so the Polynesian’s used tattoo art that was full of distinctive signs to express their identity and personality. Tattoos would indicate status in a hierarchical society as well as sexual maturity, genealogy and ones rank within the society.

Nearly everyone in ancient Polynesian society was tattooed. The Polynesian islands that were first first visited were the Marquesas Islands, which were found by European explorers and the Spanish navigator, Alvaro de Mendana de Neira, in 1595.

However, the European navigators showed little interest due to the lack of valuable resources. Captain James Cook (as mentioned in our comprehensive guide to Maori tattooing) was the first navigator trying to explore the aforementioned Polynesian triangle.

In 1771, when James Cook first returned to Tahiti and New Zealand from his first voyage, the word “tattoo” appeared in Europe. He narrated the behaviours of the Polynesian people in his voyage, which he called tattaw.

He also brought a Tahitian named Ma’i to Europe and since then tattoo started to become rapidly famous, predominently because of the tattoos of Ma’i. Another legend is that European sailors liked the Polynesian tattoos so much that they spread extremely fast in Europe because the sailors emblazoned the tattoos on their own bodies.

  1. The actual tradition of Polynesian tattooing existed more than 2000 years ago, however in the 18th century the Old Testament strictly banned the operation;
  2. Since it’s renaissance in the 1980s, many lost arts were revived but it became very difficult to sterilise the wooden and bone tools that were used for the tattooing process so the Ministry of Health banned tattooing in French Polynesia in 1986;

The revival of the art and practice of tattooing, particularly in Tonga, in recent years is predominantly referred to as a result of the work of scholars, researchers, visual artists and tattoo artists.

Is it disrespectful to get a Polynesian tattoo?

No, and yes. Creating a Polynesian tattoo that tells your own story and being able to say what it represents, shows that you acknowledge and respect the importance of such tattoo and therefore it is not seen as disrespectful. It shows your appreciation and admiration for Polynesian art and culture.

What do Polynesian triangle tattoos mean?

Sharks are regarded as fearless hunters, powerful creatures that dominate the oceans. Based on their characteristics and on myths and legends, sharks (and therefore the shark teeth motifs used to represent them) are symbolic of strength, guile, protection and guidance. It’s possible to identify them based on the disposition of the triangles and on their filling: Infinite patterns can be created, and several different motifs can be seen in Hawaiian traditions, where they are called niho mano (many teeth): Specific combinations are handed down within some families, being part of their heritage, and their use is restricted to those families only..

What do Tahitian tattoos mean?

The origin of the English word ‘tattoo’ actually comes from the Tahitian word ‘tatau’ and goes back as far as 1500 BC. In ancient Polynesian society, nearly everyone was tattooed. It was an integral part of ancient Tahitian culture and was much more than a body ornament.

Tattooing indicated ones genealogy and/or rank in society. It was a sign of wealth, of strength and of the ability to endure pain. As such, chiefs and warriors generally had the most elaborate tattoos. Tattooing was generally begun at adolescence, and would often not be completed for a number of years.

Tattooing was not limited to men. Tahitian women were also tattooed – it was an indication of a girl’s sexual maturity. With the arrival of Europeans, came a dramatic change to both tattooing and the culture in general. Captain Cook and others returned from the Pacific with tales of exotic islands, of “savage” cultures indulging in erotic dance and bizarre rituals.

One of these rituals was tattooing. It wasn’t until the arrival of the missionaries that this art form was nearly killed. Considered to be a sinful glorification of the skin, the missionaries strictly forbid tattoo.

Fortunately the art of tattooing was well documented and it is only in recent years (since 1981) that tattooing has enjoyed a renaissance. Today, Tahitian tattoo has again gained recognition as a highly respected art form and is sought by travelers the world over.

Why are Polynesian tattoos black?

The Tools Haven’t Changed Much Over Time – And Have Also Changed Completely – For centuries, the tools used to create these unique pieces of tattoo art did not change. Polynesians used the materials nature offered. The black color of the tattoo could be made from the soot of burnt coconut shells.

The tools to puncture the skin used bone, animal teeth, shell, bird beaks or fish bone. These were shaped into comb shapes or needles and attached to a stick made from bamboo or some light wood. Using another stick as a mallet, the tattoo master hand-tapped the black substance into the skin to create the tattoo design while an apprentice stretched the skin in the area that got tattooed.

Today, modern tattoo machines have mostly replaced the traditional tools even in tattoo shops of artists who are steeped in Polynesian culture. Applying the intricate Polynesian tattoo designs is simply easier, faster, and less painful for the client. However, you can find a few select artists who practice the traditional method of hand tapping in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, the mainland US, and even a very few in Europe.

Can you get a Samoan tattoo if you are not Samoan?

The Moral of the Story is… – Do you have to be Samoan to get a Samoan tattoo? No. Should you be? You tell me. This article was first posted in 2014 on our previous website, One Samoana..

What is the Polynesian symbol for family?

Every individual is important, but their real strength comes from being part of a community. A tree can stand tall, but a ravine could wipe it away, whereas a whole forest would keep the land firm, and each tree would both help toward and benefit from this.

This analogy is even more fitting if we think about the relation that Polynesian people have with nature: man comes from nature (many legends identify the common origin of people and plants like flax or taro) and there is no separation between the two.

Spirits and ancestors also manifest themselves through nature and we should therefore regard it as sacred. This inteconnection between the people, the land, and the spiritual world, is represented by the Hawaiian symbol lō kahi , which also symbolizes the union of light (in the center) and darkness, of life and death within our experience of the world. If people take care of nature, nature will take care of the people as we are all connected. The importance of community and land is particularly evident if we take a look at the structure of Maori society, and at the words used to define it: Maori people are divided in major groups that we can call “tribal nations”.

The Maori word for this is iwi , which also means “strength, bones”. Each iwi is made up of several sub-groups called hapū (it also means “pregnant, conceived in the womb” ), whose members share a common tipuna (ancestor), and these are divided into closely related family groups called whānau , which also means “to be born”.

All of these groups are closely linked to specific places, referenced as whenua. While this means land , it also means “afterbirth” or “placenta” so it’s evident the importance of the land and of community in defining one’s strength and birth right. In fact, when introducing themselves, Maori people name their mountain, river, tribe and sub-tribe, and marae in this order, to state their place in the world and in society. The importance of continuity can be seen in tattoos as well, where the symbols for ancestors and traditions are often patterns derived from nature, which can be repeated over and over again, to design longer motifs that give continuity to the design: The Marquesan symbol ipu represents a gourd and as a container it is used in tattoos to collect ancestors’ mana , creating a connection with them. The ani ata is another Marquesan pattern that represents a row of ancestors holding their uplifted hands. The Tahitian tapa’au symbol representing a braided cord symbolizesfamily unity and tradition. The kapua’i Hawaiian motif represents the footsteps of the ancestors. The ritorito symbol represents the central shoot of the flax plant ( rito ), which is a representation of family in Maori traditions. The fa’avaetuli Samoan motif represents ancestors and gods, as they are often, the first ancestors in most cases. The turtle is another symbol used to represent family, possibly because they cross the whole ocean to go back to the beach where they were born in order to lay their eggs there. – USAGE SAMPLES – The turtle is a symbol for family, and both the braids and the enatas inside it (the couple and three children) underline this aspect: The ani ata motif on top represents ancestors giving protection and guiding the family from above: You can click on the photos to read the full description of each tattoo. Paypal and credit cards accepted © Copyright 2021 TattooTribes – All Rights Reserved We use cookies to ensure a better service. By browsing you accept our privacy policy.

What does the Polynesian sun tattoo mean?

Tattooing has always been a great part of the Polynesian culture and with its tribes including samoan tattooing. The Polynesian Sun represents grandeur within the culture, highlighting things such as riches, brilliance and leadership. Again the rising sun represents a rebirth similar to other cultures.

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How do Polynesian tattoos work?

Traditional Polynesian Tattooing Techniques – The first step in a traditional Polynesian tattoo is mapping out the design. Typically, charcoal or another readily available drawing material was used to guide the tattoo master throughout this process. Polynesian tattoo artists use a manual technique with a tattooing comb or handmade needle. What Does Polynesian Tattoo Mean Many Polynesian tattoo artists still prefer manually tattooing people rather than using a tattoo gun or another tool. This method lends itself to the distinctive style and meaningful process of Polynesian tattoos. One reason for sticking with the classic technique comes from the way tattoo artists learn. Everything works on an apprenticeship system. People interested in pursuing this art form find accomplished masters to work with.

  • The comb or needle (often made with shark teeth), is then tapped into the skin to deposit the ink;
  • For some cultures, this technique is passed down over the course of centuries;
  • A century ago, infection was a major concern due to the methods used, but these risks are mitigated today due to medical advances and sterile conditions;

The rare infections that do occur are quickly treated with antibiotics. Depending on how extensive the tattoo design is, it can take months to complete a piece. Many people consider the pain levels on the higher end of the scale for tattoos, so the sessions go for as long as the person can hold on. What Does Polynesian Tattoo Mean Though not generally recommended today, salt water soaks are the traditional aftercare method and a way of lessening the chance of infection during the healing process. It could take up to a year before the tattoo is considered fully healed. Because many Polynesian tattoo designs cover large portions of the body, the person getting tattooed may need help from family, friends and their community during this process. The tradition of the Polynesian tattoo goes back centuries and shows you a lot about who that person is and what they can endure.

  1. Reaching the end of this process is a cause of celebration in many Polynesian cultures;
  2. While the pain is well-known, some cultures historically thought less of people who were unwilling to undertake this ordeal;

Whether you are interested in getting a traditional Polynesian tattoo yourself or you just want to admire the artistry on others, Polynesian tattoos are an important part of the Tahitian experience. As beautiful of a practice as it is, Polynesian tattooing almost suffered the fate of extinction.

When Catholic and Protestant missionaries came to the islands in the 1800s, they forced islanders to dress in traditional English styles, therefore covering tattoos. Eventually, tattoos were banned, but as the 1980s came about, Polynesians started reclaiming their cultural identity.

Since then, the practice has been revived and now flourishes throughout The Islands of Tahiti..

What does a tooth tattoo mean?

How Do Tooth Tattoos Work? – Ornamental decorations on teeth were originally used for religious practices but are now increasingly becoming part of fashion, according to the Indian Journal of Dental Advancements. This practice gained popularity as mainstream fashion influencers like hip-hop artists modified their smiles with grills and gems in recent decades.

Tooth tattoos (also known as dental tattoos) refer to cosmetic markings made on your teeth but are not actual tattoos. Traditional tattoos are made by placing pigment (typically ink) under your skin to create a permanent design.

As your teeth do not have skin and are protected by enamel, this method can’t be used. So, what exactly do tooth tattoos actually refer to? While there is no exact definition for this term, it generally refers to two different practices that modify the appearance of your teeth:

  • Permanent cosmetic modification of an artificial crown before placement in your mouth.
  • Temporary stickers, designs, or jewelry fixed to your teeth.

For this reason, tooth tattooing often refers to what is more commonly called ornamental dentistry or tooth jewelry. Did you know : The enamel protecting your teeth is the hardest material in your body and vital to your mouth’s health. This is one of many reasons it is not advisable to cosmetically modify your teeth without the help and recommendation of a licensed dental professional.

Is it OK to get tribal tattoos?

Tribal tattoos have a deep meaning for people that are part of the culture they come from. Tattooing such sacred designs on you when you aren’t from that culture can be considered cultural appropriation and is damaging to the people and traditions of that culture.

Do Samoan tattoos have meaning?

Background – In the Samoan tradition of applying tattoo, or  tatau , by hand,has long been defined by rank and title, with chiefs and their assistants, descending from notable families in the proper birth order. The tattooing ceremonies for young chiefs, typically conducted at the onset of puberty, were elaborate affairs and were a key part of their ascendance to a leadership role.

The permanent marks left by the tattoo artists would for ever celebrate their endurance and dedication to cultural traditions. The first Europeans to set foot on Samoan soil were members of a 1787 French expedition.

They got a closer look at the native sand reported that “the men have their thighs painted or tattooed in such a way that one would think them clothed,although they are almost naked. ” The origin of the Samoan  tatau  is believed to have been introduced to the Samoa islands by two Fiji women, who came ashore with the tools and knowledge of tattooing.

The tale proclaimed that the two sisters sang a song, which chanted that women are only to be tattooed, but as they neared the beach shores, the song mistakenly became reversed, indicating that only the men will be tattooed.

At first no one was interested in their art and skills. It was difficult to convince anyone to give them a chance. But finally one of the Samoan chiefs decided to give these women the opportunity by offering himself to the whole ordeal of getting a  tatau.

Soon the art of  tatau  became a family tradition that spread throughout the culture. The artwork and designs go beyond being skin deep—there is history and deep meanings behind them. The tattoo and designs of the Samoa islands represents community, power, status, respect, honor, and is a mark of pride that are only to be worn by Samoans.

For those who have no cultural influence or heritage background it is an act of disrespect to display their symbols and designs. The Samoan word for tattoo came from the Polynesian language. The word  tatau  originates from the tapping sounds of the tool made during tattooing.

  1. This primitive tattoo tool was made of bone or boar husk sharpen into a comb style shape with serrated teeth like needles;
  2. It was then attached to a small piece of sea turtle shell that was connected to a wooden handle;

Several of these tools are made with different comb sizes for use for small or thick lines. The ink or pigment used in the  tatau  rituals is made from the candle nut or  lama  nut. These nuts were placed on a hot fire to smolder and a coconut shell was placed on top collecting the soot that came from the nuts.

Once there is enough, the soot is mixed with sugar water. The Samoan tattoo artist is known as the  Tafuga. He is responsible for the execution of the design and the tattooing sessions. Traditionally, only descendants of a  Tafuga  can continue on with the practice of tattooing.

The father passes his skills and knowledge on ensuring that the  tatau  ritual continued. Samoan males with a  pe’a  design are called  soga’imiti  and are respected for their courage. Untattooed Samoan males are colloquially referred to as  telefua  or  telenoa , literally “naked.

” Those who begin the tattooing ordeal, but do not complete it due to the pain, or more rarely the inability to adequately to pay the tattooist, are called  pe’a mutu —a mark of shame. The traditional female tattoo in Samoa is the  malu.

In Samoan society, the  pe’a  and the  malu  are viewed with cultural pride and identity as well as a hallmark of manhood and womanhood. Pe’a  is the traditional tattoo design for men that spans from the waist to the knee. The design is very intricate with a series of lines, curves, geometric shapes and patterns.

Each section denotes a special meaning to the person’s character, his family, and culture. Getting a  pe’a  is an intense and painful experience compared to tattoos made by modern tools—the tattoo machine.

Not only are these tattoos very large, but they can extend to very sensitive parts of the body. The men in the Samoa islands got their first tattoo during the beginning of puberty. It takes weeks or even months to complete a  pe’a  tattoo because there are many stages of tattooing.

Only a section at a time is tattooed during these sessions. Tattoo apprentices and helpers assist the  Tafuga  by stretching and wiping away the blood. The Samoan women sit and sing songs to occupy and deter the pain of the person being tattoed.

The women of Samoa also get tattoos. The  malu  is a simpler and delicate design then that of the  pe’a. These tattoos are rarely seen because the design spans from the upper thighs to below the knees. During Samoan ceremonial dances the women would display their  malu  during the traditional  siva  dance.

Why did Polynesian people get tattoos?

Meaning of Tattoos – The enata symbol is a popular Polynesian motif that is used in many Polynesian tattoo designs, via www. zealandtattoo. co. nz Polynesian tattoos can have varying meanings depending on the design. Polynesian people show that they were able to endure pain by getting their skin marked and were through rites of passage to become accepted members of their society.

  • Therefore, tattoos were part of a person’s identity as visible signs of rank and ancestral blood;
  • Tattoos would also offer spiritual protection;
  • In Polynesian Mythology, the human body is linked to the two parents of humanity, Rangi (Heaven) and Papa (Earth);

It was man’s quest to reunify these forces and one way was through tattooing. The body’s upper portion is often linked to Rangi, while the lower part is attached to Papa. Maori man being tattooed on the forehead above the eye, photograph by Leslie Hinge , 1906, via Te Papa Depending on where a tattoo was placed on the body, the wearer would be calling for a particular spiritual boom to help lead them through life. For example, tattoos placed on the legs and feet were about moving forward, progressing, and transforming life. While arms and hands about the creation and making of things. It was not just the positioning of tattoos on the meaningful body but the motifs themselves.

  1. There are many motifs found on Polynesian tattoos, some of which are mentioned below;
  2. A common motif is an enata symbol which is the depiction of a human figure;
  3. If this symbol has a row of people, this means that the ancestors are watching over the wearer;
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Another common motif is the triangle shark teeth band which means protection, guidance, and strength. A spearhead means the wearer is a strong warrior. An ocean design with a curved circle is significant because it represents the second home of Polynesian people. The tiki is used in many Polynesian art forms, via www. zealandtattoo. co. nz. The tiki design is a famous Polynesian tattoo design that comes in the form of human-like faces. They are often received as semi-gods or deified ancestors, such as chiefs or priests. They are symbols of protection, fertility and are guardians over the wearers.

The sea is regarded as the place people go to rest and die. When the ocean motif is part of a tattoo, it represents life, change, and progress through change. Other common symbols include animals, such as the turtle, which means good health, fertility, long life, peace, and rest.

When this symbol is repeated, it hopes to bring families together. Another animal is the lizard, which signifies spirits and gods bridging the mortal and spirit worlds. They are all-in-all good luck charms but might lead to ill-omens if disrespected.

What are the different types of Polynesian tattoos?

There’s an ongoing revival of traditional tattoos, and artists all over the Pacific are working to bring back to life traditional practices and symbols to connect people to their land and history. Tonga, Fiji, Cook and many more are experiencing this revival, to finally join the 5 better known styles in the spotlight.

How much does a Polynesian tattoo cost?

Does it hurt? Yes. All tattoos hurt. However, having said that, getting a tattoo is not nearly as painful as you might imagine. It does not feel like the shot you get in a doctor’s office. The sensation is more of a vibration and after the first couple of minutes you get used to the sensation.

There are however certain areas of the body that are considered more sensitive, such as the soft underarm and the foot. Do you sterilize your needles? One needle/one person. All my needles are brand new, sterilized and vacuum sealed.

When you get a tattoo from me, you will see me open the new needle pack in front of you so that there can be no doubt about its sterility. In addition, all tubes are sterilized via an autoclave and ink, ink caps, rubber bands, cellophane barriers and gloves are only used once and then thrown away after each use.

  1. Do I need to wait until the end of my trip to get tattooed? Absolutely not;
  2. In fact, often what happens when people wait until the end of their trip and then they are too sunburned to even get tattooed! I actually tattoo most people at the start of their trip and it is never a problem;

The saltwater is actually healing for your tattoo. Can I swim afterwards? Yes to lagoon, No to swimming pool. Most people getting an average-sized tattoo will have no problem going in the lagoon. In fact, ancient Tahitians used to go into the lagoon immediately after receiving a tattoo in order to speed healing.

I do however recommend you use a healing ointment such as tamanu oil, A&D or Biafine and rinse with fresh water after swimming. Can I go in the sun? The sun will not ruin your tattoo but it is best to keep it protected as your skin will be sensitive and a sunburn on top of a tattoo would be painful.

Again, I advise applying a healing ointment to your tattoo such as locally made tamanu oil, Biafine or A&D. Do you do colored tattoos? Though I have used colored inks while doing tattoos in Europe, I do not do colored tattoos here in Moorea. The reason being that tattoos in Tahiti are traditionally made only with black ink and I prefer to follow tradition.

How much does it cost? First I need to know if you are thinking about a regular tattoo made with a modern tattoo machine or a tattoo made traditionally with the ancient tools. • Regular Tattoo Prices: The starting price for a regular tattoo is approximately 15,000xpf (about $150 USD).

On average, I would say people spend about $350-500 USD for a regular tattoo. • Traditional Polynesian Tattoo Prices: The starting price for a traditional tattoo is 60,000xpf (about $600 USD). The reason for the difference in price has to do with the amount of labor involved.

First, I have to make the traditional tools. I usually use wild boar tusk. Making the tools is time consuming and the tools I make for you, are only for you. In addition, I need to hire an assistant to hold your skin flat while I tattoo.

I would say most people spend about $1000-1200 on a traditional tattoo. Whichever method you choose, the price is calculated on the size of the tattoo and the amount of detail involved. Keep in mind, Tahiti & Her Islands are the birthplace of tattoo. You can always find someone willing to do a tattoo for less.

  • Just be sure to ask the important questions about their equipment and rules of hygiene;
  • Also make sure they are capable of doing the kind of tattoo you want;
  • How long does it take? The size and detail determine the time needed to do a tattoo;

Having said that, I can do a small tattoo in as little as 5 minutes. I would say the average tattoo takes about 20-60 minutes. Traditional tattoos can take up to double the amount of time. Is it safe? Yes. It is important you go to a tattooist who follows strict rules of hygiene.

First impressions go a long way. Does the tattoo studio/work space look clean? Are brand new sterilized needles used? Ask to see the needle pack opened in front of you so that there can be no doubt about its sterility.

Ask how tubes are sterilized? They should be sterilized via an autoclave. In addition ink, ink caps, rubber bands, cellophane barriers and gloves should only be used once then thrown away after each use. 10. Is there something I should put on the tattoo to speed healing? I recommend a healing ointment such as tamanu oil, A&D, or a product called Biafine that you can get at the pharmacy here in Moorea.

I do not recommend antibiotic ointments such as Neosporin, as they produce a chemical reaction with the tattoo that actually makes it more painful. 11. Would it help to drink or take pain killers before a tattoo? No.

Things like alcohol and aspirin can thin your blood, causing excessive bleeding. 12. Do you use Flash? In the U. it is common to have the tattoo design made on a piece of paper and then transferred on to your body. This is called flash. The tattoo is made by tracing over the design and then filling it in.

I do not do this. Everything I do is free hand. I will also tell you that every tattoo I do is one-of-a-kind. I like to use the ancient symbols to create tattoos that have significance and personal meaning unique to each person.

Polynesian Tattoo Symbols and Meanings – TATtalk 1

13. Are all tattoo artists the same? No, they are not. You need to feel comfortable with your tattoo artist. You will likely have a vision in mind or you may want certain symbolism in your tattoo. You need to feel comfortable to communicate with the tattooist.

Can Polynesian tattoos have color?

Color – While you can certainly add color to your tattoo, the vast majority of these tattoos use black ink. The use of a single color like this creates crisp, detailed tattoos that keep the “tribal” style popular today. If you do choose to add color, do so sparingly and confine it to one additional color per design. Colors likely to be used in Polynesian-inspired tattoos include:

  • Red
  • Purple
  • Gray
  • Orange

Are tribal tattoos disrespectful?

Other Offensive and Appropriative Tattoos – Credit: Instagram There is a whole array of offensive and appropriative tattoo designs. However, not everything is always offensive and appropriative to everyone equally. But, we decided to mention tattoo designs that are universally considered offensive and appropriative to different people and different cultures.

  • Sexually explicit tattoos – obviously, if you have a sexually explicit tattoo, it will be considered disrespectful, distasteful and offensive. There is no particular reason people feel compelled to get such tattoos, but they generally tend to be pretty offensive to other people.
  • Sugar skull tattoos – the sugar skull is one of the main symbolism of the Day of the Dead celebration. This celebration is deeply rooted in the Aztec tradition, which is nowadays practiced as a ritual in Mexico. Unless you’re of Mexican heritage or part of the culture in other ways, it would be pretty offensive to get a sugar skull or Calavera tattoo.
  • Native American tattoos – to get a tattoo that depicts either Native Americans or any of the Native American symbolism (Indian headdress, dreamcatchers , and feathers , spiritual animals like eagle or bear , etc. ), without belonging to the culture, heritage, and tradition, is considered offensive and disrespectful.
  • Certain numerical tattoos – if a tattoo only says 100%, chances are the wearer believes in white supremacy, since it stands for pure Aryan blood. Moreover, if a tattoo shows the number 18, it stands for the initials of Adolf Hitler (1st and 18th letters of the alphabet are A and H). And, if a tattoo shows 311, chances are it stands for KKK (since the 11th letter of the alphabet is K and it is repeated 3 times).
  • A noose tattoo – this tattoo is considered offensive due to its historical association with lynching. Such symbolism is racist and directed primarily at African-Americans; it also promotes hate speech and needles to say, is offensive on so many levels.

What are Polynesian tattoos called?

Polynesian tattoos, also known as tatau in Samoa and tatu in Tahiti, are renowned in the modern world for their distinctive patterns and motifs. These unique body art tattoos have a rich cultural significance and a strong history. The Beginnings Polynesian countries (including Tonga, Samoa and Tahiti) favoured the art of tattooing as their cultures had very little connection with the written word.

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The human body provided a much more traditional canvas for both communication and creativity. Within the Polynesian community, tattoos were seen as a way of communicating one’s life force. The designs themselves were also highly significant, with meaning differing between islands, communities and families.

The act of receiving a tattoo was a rite of passage celebrated by both men and women. The Process A traditional Polynesian tattoo wasn’t applied in conditions like the tattoo shops we know today. Being a tattoo artist in Polynesian culture was usually a hereditary position rather than a chosen career.

Trainee artists were taught to finesse their skills on pieces bark before moving onto a human canvas. There was no ink gun, no cling wrap – just a tattooing comb (called an au), made from the teeth of boars and turtle shell and attached to a wooden handle.

These tools were then dipped in ink and designs would be struck into the skin using a mallet. The process caused immense pain and posed a large risk of infection , but this was simply acknowledged as part of the ritual. The pain signified strength in the individual.

  1. Those within the community who refused to be tattooed were often perceived as weak;
  2. Part of the ritual nature of Polynesian tattooing meant the whole community was included in the effort to keep the wounds clean and free of infection;

This healing process took months and included salt water washes and massage. European Exploration As Europeans began their exploration of Polynesia, many were inspired by the beauty of Polynesian tattoo designs. Explorers took the tattooing traditions back to their homes in the West, and there was a surge in tattooing’s popularity in many European countries.

Despite being taken up by Europeans, this cultural art form was nearly lost forever during the Nineteenth Century. The Christian missionaries who began arriving at the islands throughout the Victorian era saw evil in the art of tattooing, and immediately forbade the Islanders to pursue the age-old practice.

Due to this forbidden nature, many of the islands (except for Samoa) forgot the rituals, traditions, skills and art of tattooing. The Resurrection of the Polynesian Tattoo Losing a long-cherished form of tribal art is a travesty for global culture, so we’re fortunate that the Polynesian tattoo reemerged with a vengeance during the 1990s.

However,  new, emerging variants of the Polynesian tattoo are a modern spin on the old version. Today,  modern Polynesian tattoos flaunt significant historical features and merge cultural motifs and symbols from multiple Polynesian societies.

They embrace contemporary mores of what is beautiful and meaningful, some of which bear little resemblance to the traditional of the past. As such, today’s Polynesian tattoos are both the sum of their long history and the representation of a whole new tattooing tradition..

How much does a Polynesian tattoo cost?

Does it hurt? Yes. All tattoos hurt. However, having said that, getting a tattoo is not nearly as painful as you might imagine. It does not feel like the shot you get in a doctor’s office. The sensation is more of a vibration and after the first couple of minutes you get used to the sensation.

  1. There are however certain areas of the body that are considered more sensitive, such as the soft underarm and the foot;
  2. Do you sterilize your needles? One needle/one person;
  3. All my needles are brand new, sterilized and vacuum sealed;

When you get a tattoo from me, you will see me open the new needle pack in front of you so that there can be no doubt about its sterility. In addition, all tubes are sterilized via an autoclave and ink, ink caps, rubber bands, cellophane barriers and gloves are only used once and then thrown away after each use.

Do I need to wait until the end of my trip to get tattooed? Absolutely not. In fact, often what happens when people wait until the end of their trip and then they are too sunburned to even get tattooed! I actually tattoo most people at the start of their trip and it is never a problem.

The saltwater is actually healing for your tattoo. Can I swim afterwards? Yes to lagoon, No to swimming pool. Most people getting an average-sized tattoo will have no problem going in the lagoon. In fact, ancient Tahitians used to go into the lagoon immediately after receiving a tattoo in order to speed healing.

I do however recommend you use a healing ointment such as tamanu oil, A&D or Biafine and rinse with fresh water after swimming. Can I go in the sun? The sun will not ruin your tattoo but it is best to keep it protected as your skin will be sensitive and a sunburn on top of a tattoo would be painful.

Again, I advise applying a healing ointment to your tattoo such as locally made tamanu oil, Biafine or A&D. Do you do colored tattoos? Though I have used colored inks while doing tattoos in Europe, I do not do colored tattoos here in Moorea. The reason being that tattoos in Tahiti are traditionally made only with black ink and I prefer to follow tradition.

  1. How much does it cost? First I need to know if you are thinking about a regular tattoo made with a modern tattoo machine or a tattoo made traditionally with the ancient tools;
  2. • Regular Tattoo Prices: The starting price for a regular tattoo is approximately 15,000xpf (about $150 USD);

On average, I would say people spend about $350-500 USD for a regular tattoo. • Traditional Polynesian Tattoo Prices: The starting price for a traditional tattoo is 60,000xpf (about $600 USD). The reason for the difference in price has to do with the amount of labor involved.

  1. First, I have to make the traditional tools;
  2. I usually use wild boar tusk;
  3. Making the tools is time consuming and the tools I make for you, are only for you;
  4. In addition, I need to hire an assistant to hold your skin flat while I tattoo;

I would say most people spend about $1000-1200 on a traditional tattoo. Whichever method you choose, the price is calculated on the size of the tattoo and the amount of detail involved. Keep in mind, Tahiti & Her Islands are the birthplace of tattoo. You can always find someone willing to do a tattoo for less.

  • Just be sure to ask the important questions about their equipment and rules of hygiene;
  • Also make sure they are capable of doing the kind of tattoo you want;
  • How long does it take? The size and detail determine the time needed to do a tattoo;

Having said that, I can do a small tattoo in as little as 5 minutes. I would say the average tattoo takes about 20-60 minutes. Traditional tattoos can take up to double the amount of time. Is it safe? Yes. It is important you go to a tattooist who follows strict rules of hygiene.

First impressions go a long way. Does the tattoo studio/work space look clean? Are brand new sterilized needles used? Ask to see the needle pack opened in front of you so that there can be no doubt about its sterility.

Ask how tubes are sterilized? They should be sterilized via an autoclave. In addition ink, ink caps, rubber bands, cellophane barriers and gloves should only be used once then thrown away after each use. 10. Is there something I should put on the tattoo to speed healing? I recommend a healing ointment such as tamanu oil, A&D, or a product called Biafine that you can get at the pharmacy here in Moorea.

I do not recommend antibiotic ointments such as Neosporin, as they produce a chemical reaction with the tattoo that actually makes it more painful. 11. Would it help to drink or take pain killers before a tattoo? No.

Things like alcohol and aspirin can thin your blood, causing excessive bleeding. 12. Do you use Flash? In the U. it is common to have the tattoo design made on a piece of paper and then transferred on to your body. This is called flash. The tattoo is made by tracing over the design and then filling it in.

  1. I do not do this;
  2. Everything I do is free hand;
  3. I will also tell you that every tattoo I do is one-of-a-kind;
  4. I like to use the ancient symbols to create tattoos that have significance and personal meaning unique to each person;

13. Are all tattoo artists the same? No, they are not. You need to feel comfortable with your tattoo artist. You will likely have a vision in mind or you may want certain symbolism in your tattoo. You need to feel comfortable to communicate with the tattooist.

What age do Polynesians get tattoos?

While Polynesia is generally well-known for its distinctively patterned tattoos, Samoa in particular prides itself on its intricate and beautiful designs and their cultural significance. While you may not be interested in getting one yourself – or for that matter seeing them on your children – these tattoos offer fascinating insight into the unique culture and history of the Samoan people.

  1. Should you be lucky enough to spot one of these beautiful designs while on vacation in Samoa, here’s what you should know: The tatau’s history According to the Polynesian Cultural Center, Samoan tattoos were thought to be introduced by two Fijian women; a story that was passed down through oral history;

The most important tatau was the male version, called the pe’a which is traditionally an incredibly dense design that starts from mid-back and stretches all the way down to the mid-thigh. Young Samoan men were usually tattooed between the ages of 14-18 and the process is thought of as a coming-of-age ritual.

The female Samoan tatau is called a malu and covers from the mid-thigh to the knees and is not usually as dense as the pe’a. Unlike today’s modern tattoo methods, the traditional Samoan tattoo process took days and was far more painful.

Artists used handmade tools called ‘au which consisted of a fine comb with sharp teeth for puncturing the skin attached to a tortoiseshell plate and wooden handle. After 1830, upon the arrival of Christian missionaries, only chiefs’ sons received a tatau, whereas almost every Samoan male received them before then.

  1. The tatau today The legacy of the Samoan tatau is highly visible in today’s culture, not just in Samoa but worldwide;
  2. First of all, the word tattoo is actually derived from the Samoan tatau as an English mispronunciation, according to the Polynesian Cultural Centre;

Traditional Samoan tattoos themselves have been experiencing a resurgence as Samoans all over the world use them as a way to express national identity..