The tattooing process involved in Samoan tattoo designs has been existing in Samoa for more than 2000 years from now. When you study the Samoan culture, you’ll have the chance to know their tradition of decorating the body with amazing tat designs. The word tattoo has its origin from the Samoan term “tatau” which means workmanlike or correct.
When you speak of tattoos in the Samoan culture, they are associated with cultural dignity and pride of the Samoans. All the natives used to engrave tats on their body, and the designs applied to men were more painful and heavier. You will notice that the Samoan tat art is commonly prominent in look which covers a wide area of the body. It is often made with interwoven shapes, solid blocks, bold and symmetrical lines.
The traditional Samoan tattoo designs for males were called “Pe’a,” while the designs applied to females is referred to as “Malu”. These tats were etched by the tat guru called “Tafuga” using black ink extracted from burnt candlenut shells, along with certain components that possess cultural significance. When a man reaches the age of puberty, and his skin begins to stretch to some extent, it means he is ready for his first tattoo.
The tattooing process was performed with a ritual accompanied with chanting and songs. The Pea design for men covered the entire area of the waistline up to the knee. The motifs utilized for these tats for men were geometrical in shape composed of curved lines, and thin cross beams in black color. They look like a net especially in the groin area, and applied with leaves of pandanus tree.
The “Tafuga” type of Samoan tattoo designs took at least 10 days to finish the tattooing procedure, involved 5 sessions, and a gap of 1 day was allocated between sessions. These 5 tattooing sessions were performed step-by-step, with each session applied solely to a particular area on the body. As an example, the first session may cover the height of the tat design at the back.
This is followed by engraving of designs at the posterior section, abdominal areas, groin, thighs and middle thigh in succeeding sessions. Usually it took several weeks and even years to have the Pe’a tat designs completed. In general, Samoan tat designs along with their meanings were decided by the Tafuga or tat expert for each individual.
After the procedure, that was the only time that the hidden meaning of the Samoan tattoo designs embedded on the skin of the male was revealed to him. The tat meaning depended on the status of the wearer, with corresponding tat pattern applicable, location and other shapes of the design suitable for the person.
One major difference of Samoan tat art compared to other Polynesian tat designs is the lack of circles in the Samoan designs. Moreover, the traditional Samoan tat designs are limited to the legs, arms and other parts of the body, except the face. Today, the Samoan tattoo designs include shells, birds, fishes, waves, “kawa” bowl and other significant symbols.
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