Tatau: A History of Sāmoan Tattooing
- About the Book
Tatau is a beautifully designed and richly illustrated retelling of the unique and powerful history of Sāmoan tattooing, from 3,000 years ago to modern practices.
The Sāmoan Islands are virtually unique in that tattooing has been continuously practiced with indigenous techniques: the full male tattoo, the pe‘a, has evolved in subtle ways in its design since the nineteenth century, but remains as elaborate, meaningful, and powerful as it ever was.
This cultural history is the first publication to examine Sāmoan tatau from its earliest beginnings. Through a chronology rich with people, encounters, and events it describes how Sāmoan tattooing has been shaped by local and external forces of change over many centuries. It argues that Sāmoan tatau has a long history of relevance both within and beyond Sāmoa, and a more complicated history than is currently presented in the literature.
It is richly illustrated with historical images of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Sāmoan tattooing, contemporary tattooing, diagrams of tattoo designs and motifs, and with supplementary photographs such as posters, ephemera, film stills, and artefacts.
- Sean Mallon is of Sāmoan and Irish descent. He is senior curator of Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
- Sébastien Galliot studied ethnology at the University of Provence and EHESS (Paris), France’s foremost research school in social sciences. His research focuses on Samoan traditional tattooing and the contemporary practice of this ritual. Since 2001, he has made several visits to Samoa, Tonga and Fiji in order to do field research. His articles include “Samoan tattoos leave indelible global imprint”, Voices: Unesco in Asia and the Pacific, 27 July-September 2011, pp. 10-11. Sébastien is also a self-taught photographer and filmmaker. During a one-year residence in Samoa in 2005, he took hundreds of pictures and hours of film and exhibited a selection of those photographs in France (Marseille, Correns). He has given guest lectures on tattooing at Te Papa and at conferences in Samoa and Europe.