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Polynesian Tattooes

Tattooing has been a part of polynesian culture since people first landed there. From Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island, natives have worn tattoos for a variety of reasons. Missionarries virtually stamped out most of the traditional tattooing in most areas, but recently there has been a resurgance in not only this artform, but also in many ancestoral ways of life. In the earlr 1980's, Tahiti began the resurgance which soon spread to the Marquesas and all over. Samoa is one of the few places that never really quit tattooing. It has several dichotomies in that it is very Christian, yet still drink kava, have tattoos and so forth from their traditional ways. They are still using mostly traditional styles, but as with most places the Western world has had an influence on some. New Zealand is another country that had a continuous tattooing trend, although it was almost entirely western styles. Today it too is having a resurgance in traditional ways. The maori people have full body tattoos, although not in the way the movie Once Were Warriors potrayed them. Some women have even began to get the chin and lip tattoos that their distant relatives once wore so proudly. Easter Island or Rapa Nui has probably the largest proportion of tattoos. 1 in 5 peope have tattoos and many are of traditional patterns. Tattoos have many meanings in these cultures. In Samoa it is an initiation into manhood. No matter what accomplishments one might have, the males are still considered boys until their tattooing is complete. Women here also have more tattooes than in other areas. Although not as elaborate as the males, it is still of great importance. There are also tattoos for criminals, which might be a good idea to implement here in are western society. The most extensive and exquisite tattooing takes place in the Marquesas. Tahiti and many other places have adopted their styles. Some have tattoos with very intricate detail, while others tell a story, and yet others might be very extensive and cover the entire body. Many methods are used for these tattoos. Some places have modern equipment while others still use traditional ways. For health and safety reasons the governments have tried to enforce modern ways, but few who still act in tradition ther is only one way. A needle attached to a match head or bone chisel(very painful) are some other methods. By stretching the skin and using a bone chisel the tattoo is imprinted deep into the skin and also shows bravery due to the pain it causes. It is hit into the area by a small mallet, some can be anywhere from 2cm to 10 cm wide. Polynesian has suddenly become a cool thing to be, and tattooing is just one of the ancient ways that has resurged due to this. More information will be added as I learn. Any comments or info can be emailed to me at Thanks

Polynesian Tattoo Links

Angelfire - Easiest Free Home Pages
Samoan pe'a page with info on meanings
Info on resurgance of tattoos in polynesia
interview about tattooing in polynesia
information on tattooing in the Marquesas Islands
New Zealand tattoo history
My other homepage