Tuesday, April 24, 2007

History Of Body Art With Meaning / The Polynesian tatau/


Tahitian Art of Tattooing

Tahitian Tattoos have been an important tradition in the Tahitian culture for thousands of years. The traditional Tahitian tattoos represented status and class within a tribe, some of which has influenced a more modern art form of tattooing. It is important to know the history of tattooing especially for those who may be considering one. It's important to be knowledgeable of the tattoos and know that many have various meanings. Today many people acknowledge the Polynesian art of tattooing as part of their tradition and many just as part of the art and style. The Word tattoo is derived from the Tahitian word "Tatu" which means to mark something

Tattooing in ancient Tahiti was used as a method of personality and expression. As it’s stated in the article” Tattoo An Anthropology” Kuwahara, Makiko states that” The body is both a social and cultural construct built within a social and culture context.” Tattoos were used for status and indicated many things such as power, strength, wealth and spirituality. As it stated in the article " Tribal Tattoos: A Brief History," "The roles and purpose and design of ancient tattoos represented the work, status and spiritualities of the individual tribes." Each tattoo design represented a class and each had a meaning.

In ancient Tahiti it was said that the God of creations Ta’aroa sons were the ones who taught the art of the Tata. Many people believed in this and took preparation for tattooing very secretly. Usually it would involve doing things to purify ones self from a certain amount of time and doing away with things that would get in the way of purification. It was done in a ceremonial type of way in which peroration was done. Dr. Rollin describes the art of tattooing in the article “The Revival of Polynesian Lost Art.” He says “The patient was immobilized most frequently in a sort of vise composed of two trunks of banana trees between which he was attached and held tight. The tattooist, accomplished by his assistants, sang a sort of chant of the occasion syncopated to the rhythm of the tapping of little mallet. Each drop of blood was rapidly wiped up with a scrap of tapa, so that none is allowed to fall to the ground.” “History of Polynesian Tattoo p2.”

Tattoos in ancient Tahiti were required. Young girls had to be tattooed because it represented many things. When a girl began to mature she had to get her buttocks tattooed. The tattoos looked like black patches across the buttocks which were later accompanied by arced lines to form the top. Young women had to reveal their tattoos to show that they were in their puberty stages and or available. Women were also tattooed for various other reasons such as to show that she was free from food impurities from which at the moment she was tattooed, usually on the inside of her arms, could only eat the food their mother prepared for them. The tattoos also symbolized her rank and or position within the society or tribe.” The Tattooing of Woman “History of Tahitian Tattoo p1.

Men weren't required to be tattooed in ancient Tahiti but they preferred to be because the tattoos had symbolized their position within the society. The more tattoos a man had the more he was looked up to and respected. As it said in the article Polynesia Tahiti Tattoos (Janeresture.com) "Men often had tattoos all over their body, including on the neck and ears. Only the face was left untattooed except for the occasional warrior or priest who might wear a special emblem on has forehead or lips.” When men were tattooed that associated their tattooed among four classes which were as follows: “Tribal tattoos-A brief history p1.”

A Tahitian Warrior

a) Social Class – gods, Priests and Ari’i- which were hereditary and restricted to their descendants.

b) Hui Ari’i class- reserved for leaders of war parties, warriors etc.

c) Arioi’I –exclusively for chiefs men and woman

d) Menehune class- for individuals with no pedigree or an unremarkable family history

There were many forms and styles of tattoos and tattoo had a meaning or represented something. The most common designs were the traditional designs which are divided into two groups.

Enata: Theses designs or symbols that reflected ones history, life which island he was born the things he did society and the level of work. They were mostly related to what the person did or liked to do and the symbols were used to protect them in that aspect and against anyone who may not be in his favor. They were considered natural symbols.

Etua: These are design that was affiliated with spiritual force that was past down through ones ancestors, chiefs and gods and served as protection against the evil. Theses were considered mystic symbols. “Revival of Polynesian Lost Art.p2.”

Some well known celebrities that come from Polynesian background acknowledge their tradition and the history of tattooing.

Dwayne Johnson, aka" The Rock" a well known wrestler has an example of his tattoo that he had done in Hawaii. This is a perfect example of an Enata and an Etua tattoo. The tattoo on his left arm is part of who, his is what he has become and his family history and also has some mystical signs which is a Samoan tradition and part of his heritage.

Dwayne Johnson, aka "The Rock"

What Does Dwayne's Polynesian Tattoo Mean?
In early 2003, Dwayne traveled to Hawaii to have his family history tattooed on him—a Samoan tradition. Here he reveals the meanings of his tattoo.
A) These are coconut leaves, or niu, which denote a Samoan chief-warrior.
B) This is the sun which brings good fortune.
C) This isa/ga fa'atasi (three people in one), That's me with my arms open. As it continues on my chest, it connects to my o lo'u to'a/ua (my wife, Dany) and my o lo'u afafine (my daughter, Simone Alexandra).
D) These descending swirls represent past, present and future, with the future becoming ever bigger. The pattern continues under my arm, where its meaning is written: "It changes in the place where it is found to be gone."
E) These two eyes, called o mata e lua, represent my ancestors watching over my path.
F) This is the Great Eye, It's an intimidating symbol that allows its user to possess the spirit of his enemy. The eye is used to distract the enemy in a confrontation.
G) This broken face, marked by shark teeth—a symbol of strength—is my spirit protector and a symbol of my struggle.
H) This is the priest and spiritual guide, who raises a warrior to enlightenment and supernatural power under the eyes of the warrior's ancestors.
I ) These are stones of achievement and abundance. They're the foundation of my life and symbols of my dedication. They bring the right to stand and speak with honor as a Tula Fale—a high talking chief—and they maintain mana, or supernatural power.
J) This is a tortoise shell, to deflect evil spirits. Warriors used shells as shields.

Although Tahiti is well known for its distinctive designs and skillful techniques in tatu, the art was lost for a while. In 1981 the rival to bring back the tradition in not only Tahiti but of all Polynesia started when two men one who was named Tavana who use to live in Hawaii and a Marquesan dancer named Teve was doing some research on traditional tattoos. They went to Germany and then ended up in Samoa which is the only island in Polynesia which was still practicing Tatau. The Samoan tattoo artist went to Tahiti to revive the traditional art. New Tahitian tattoo artist who mastered the technique showed their work at the Fete which is a festival in Tahiti. They demonstrated their works of art with traditional tools.

The people of Polynesia made their own tools from natural resources. Tools used traditionally in Tahiti were made up of a comb which had needles made of bone and shell. The comb was put into the color that was made of candlenut and placed on the skin; another wood handle was used to tap down on the comb causing the needles to go into the skin. In 1986 the use of traditional tools was banned in Polynesia because it was hard to properly sterilize.
This is a news report on tatau. It is closer look on why the tradtional method of tatau was baned in the 1980's and the need and importance of The people of polynesia to still carry out their tradition.

Sterilization was important because of the puncturing of the skin which drew blood. It's amazing to see how modern day society has grown and Technology has grown to embrace this art form. Today there are many other safer methods and modernized tools used to make tattoos. “Allen Tricia” “The Tahitian Revival p1.”

The people of Polynesia embrace their tradtional Tatau but also practice the modernized and safer way to tattoo. The veido shows a native of the island Moorea in Polynesia gaetting a traditional tattoo design using modern technology.

Today in Polynesian islands there are many artists who tattoo and there are many popular designs that are still used today that symbolize different things. The art form of Tatu is still appreciated in Tahiti and many of the tattooist works can be seen at the International festival of Tattooing in April on the Raiatea Island.

Today the many designs that influenced by the Polynesian islands are used in modern tattooing. The designs are by far interesting and beautiful but also symbolize much more than just a pretty tattoo.

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