Polynesian Hand-Tap Tattooing
By Sulu'ape Angela
The word “tattoo” is a derivative of the ancient Polynesian word “tatau”. After hearing the native Samoans use “tatau” to describe the markings inthe skin, the sailors from that era had a hard time pronouncing it, so it became “tattoo”. Translated into English it was originally believed to have meant “to tap” since the Polynesian tattoo wastapped into the skin. Yet, having spent time in the South Pacific, I became aware that “tatau” actually translates to the phrase “What one must do”.
Marking of the skin, called “tattooing” has beenaround since the beginning of man. It may have been Ugh the Cave man falling into the fire, and poking himself with a charred stick or ember leaving a permanent pigmentation change on the area where hisskin was punctured, probably realizing he could mark himself like an animal, camouflage himself, or make himself more attractive
with such markings.
Tattooing has been traditionally used foridentification in regards to tribal affiliation, sexual maturity, life experience, knowledge, wisdom, strength, endurance, rank, rites of passage, and beautification. In some cultures, tattoos were used todifferentiate between kings, free men and women, servants or slaves with permanent marks telling individual status in ancient societies. History has observed the more elaborate and beautiful themarkings, the more expensive in trade, the higher the social status.
The oldest known tattooing implements were found in the coastal regions of Africa in a cave-dwelling and carbon dated to be over 20,000years old. As far as we know, the oldest practice of tattooing is found in the Samoan Islands in the Samoan culture that came with them when they traveled to and settled the Islands of Samoa. Somedesigns were added when they landed on the Islands, creating traditional tattoos that they still wear today. These tattoos are known for men as the Pe'a, and the Malu for women. It is a pure art form...
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