Tattoo Traditions of Polynesia
Home Schedule Gallery Newsletter Events FAQ About Tricia

These lectures are heavily illustrated Power Point presentations featuring traditional tattoo in both early historic and modern times.

Please allow 90 minutes in scheduling, as each actual presentation is 75 minutes, followed by 15 minutes for questions and further discussion.
A Tattoo Tour of Polynesia
The tattoo was an integral aspect of nearly all Pacific Island cultures.  It was far more than mere bodily decoration. In ancient times, tattoos served specific purposes within the socio-religious systems of the various island groups. This presentation is a fun, fast moving overview of tattooing in each of the primary Polynesian island groups, giving a glimpse into the history, origins, cultural complexes and art of Samoa, Tonga, the Society and Marquesas Islands, Aotearoa, Rapa Nui and Hawai'i.
Tattoo Traditions of Hawai’i
This lecture is a detailed look at the tattoo in the Hawaiian Islands during both early historical times and the present-day. The early explorers and expedition’s artists provided excellent descriptions and drawings documenting the early form of the art. Featured are a number of previously rarely published original illustrations by Jacques Arago in 1819. Photos, accompanied by the wearer’s mana’o (thoughts) on their tattoos, provide insight into the meanings and motivations of tattooed Hawaiians of today.
Tattoo Traditions of the Marquesas Islands
Provides a in-depth look into one of the most complex tattoo traditions found anywhere in the world. Marquesan tattoo was very extensive in the amount of the body covered and was strictly culturally prescribed. Tattooing in the Marquesas was fortunately very well documented in comparison to what was recorded in many of the island groups. This presentation includes the art, meanings and motifs, as well as the cultural complexes behind the practice.  
The Tattoo Revival in Polynesia
In the last quarter century, Islanders are once again taking pride in their cultural heritage and reviving many traditional practices, including the tattoo. This presentation provides a pictorial overview of the revival, as well as the specific circumstances under which the art has evolved in each of the primary island groups. The appropriation of Polynesian design and contemporary issues regarding the art and design use today are also discussed.
Tattoo, Gender and Geography

In ancient Polynesia the art of tattoo was (and still is) male dominated. Men were the practitioners and wore the most extensive bodily coverage. This Polynesian cultural complex originates in Samoa where legends tell of Taema and Tilafaiga, two goddesses that brought the tools of the trade from Fiji to the Samoan chain. As they swam the great distance, they chanted, “Tattoo the women, not the men”.  In some versions of the story they are Siamese twins that are separated by a storm at sea, causing them to become confused. In another version we are told that a huge pearl at the bottom of the ocean distracts them.  Regardless of the source of their confusion, the chant was reversed and became “tattoo the men, and not the women”.  Although this seems to be a whimsical myth, it does correspond with an actual change in the tattooing practices of the Pacific islands as evidenced by ethnohistoric accounts and their numerous illustrations. In the majority of proto-Polynesian cultures, that is the island chains west of the Samoa, it was predominately women that were the practitioners of the art. Illustrations show that women, in the western Pacific, were at least as heavily adorned as men, if not more so.  Certain women’s tattoos seem to have been part of an ancient ancestral complex, and may have had to do with the balance between the sacred and the secular, or the management of kapu. 

Numerous other presentations on Pacific arts and culture are available upon request
and can be customized to suit the interests of your audience.
Hawai'i: (808) 734-8677

Copyright © 1999 - 2017 Tricia Allen