History of the Tattoo… Polynesian ~


I love Tattoos!  Always have, always will.  I remember the first time I was attracted to a man with tattoos.  I was sweet sixteen.  He wasn’t your usual guy with a tattoo, we nicknamed him ‘tattoo man’ because his entire upper body was inked.  He used to hang out at the Canyon in the summer and cliff dive, shirtless of course.  I think he was my first real crush, the kind that makes you feel weird inside.  I had never met anyone who had a tattoo let alone a body full of them.  I am intrigued by tattoos and the reasons men and women get them.  The stories and meanings behind them can be so moving and inspiring or just plain quirky and odd.

I have decided to do a history of the tattoo for a post once a month until we cover the many styles and types of tattoos.

‘A really good friend of mine’ Scott has his upper body inked with what I think is the most incredible tattoo I have ever seen.  The process from start to finish took months of preparation because the entire tattoo was created  from his vision.  He went through the creative process with the artist  Cristoffer Fulton.  Cristoffer passed just days after the vision was complete.  His memory will forever live on in the art he has created. There is a unique story here that I hope to share with you one day.

The word tattoo is said to have two major derivations,  from the Polynesian word ‘ta’ which means striking something and a Tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’.  The history of tattoo began over 5000 years ago and is as diverse as the people who wear them.

The Rock Polynesian tattoo

Polynesian~ In pacific cultures tattooing has a huge historic significance.  Polynesian tattooing is considered the most intricate and skillful tattooing of the ancient world.  Polynesian peoples, believe that a person’s mana, their spiritual power or life force, is displayed through their tattoo.  The vast majority of what we know today about these ancient arts has been passed down through legends, songs, and ritual ceremonies. Elaborate geometrical designs which were often added to, renewed, and embellished throughout the life of the individual until they covered the entire body.

In Samoa, the 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 forever celebrate their endurance and dedication to cultural traditions.

The Hawaiian people had their traditional tattoo art, known as ‘kakau’. It served them not only for ornamentation and distinction, but to guard their health and spiritual well-being.  Intricate patterns, mimicking woven reeds or other natural forms, graced men’s arms, legs, torso and face.
Women were generally tattooed on the hand, fingers, wrists and sometimes on their tongue.  I will be inking my body at some point this year but it won’t be on my tongue!  To be continued…