Samoan Tattoos Samoan Tattoos and Tattooing The tribal group of Samoans is deeply related to body art or tattoos. The testimony to this fact is that the word tattoo itself comes from the Samoan word "tatau". It has been seen that both male and female members of the Samoan tribe feel a very strong bond towards tattoos, as it is an integral part of their culture. This art of making a mark on the upper skin of your body has been practiced and mastered by Samoans for more than two thousand years. They have different names for men and women tattoos. While the traditional tattoos for men are known as "pe'a", the one for women are known as "malu". Discovering the Samoan world of tattoos The discovery of Samoan tattoos is indeed a very amusing and interesting tale. In the year of 1722, the Europeans, mainly Dutch discovered the island of Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean. There were specifically three Dutchmen who met the tribal people of this island. They seemed very friendly, and their behavior was extremely courteous. The visitors observed that the Samoans were wearing woven silk tights all over their body. However, in reality, there was no silk garments on their body, but their bodies were fully covered by tattoos. Samoan tattoo specifications There are different specifications for male and female tattoos, according to the Samoan traditions. In general, the tattoos of a male start from the mid-back and cover up to the knees, the side and lines. On the other hand, the women tattoos are slightly different as they are much heavier when compared to the tattoos of men. The significance of male and female tattoos also differs in a few respects. The men of Samoa considers tattoo to be a sign of their manhood, while only a few women of high ranks could tattoo their body, and this distinction made it very popular among the young men of the Samoan society. Right to perform tattoos and the honor The Samoans take the art of tattoos extremely seriously and only a select few are bestowed with the honor to perform tattoos. It has been observed that only people with and ancestral history of performing tattoos are allowed the right to perform tattoos. It is a social honor and privilege, which is granted only if the person's ancestors were part of the traditional tattoo guild. Moreover, new tattoo artists have to undergo training under experienced tattoo artists, and only after working under their supervision and getting their approval, they can start performing tattoos. The honor of being a tattoo artist is extended to his wife as well. She is respected by the society and is honored with the duty to wipe the blood of the tattooed person. Moreover, she is well paid by the tattooed person. As the process of tattooing takes more than three months, she gets a share of all the payments and gifts received by the tattoo artist. The process of Samoan tattooing The ancient and traditional way of Samoan tattooing is extremely painful and time consuming. The tribal Samoan tattoo is done with the help of a sliced boar tusk, which is attached to a turtle shell and honed with a piece of coral and finally fixed to a stick. The tool is then used to make designs in the body. It is made to whittle the design into the flesh of the tattooed person by pattering it aligned with the skin. After that a special mixture is applied on the wound. The mixture made the artist consists of candle kernel stain and sugar water. Tools used for tattooing There are various tools used in this process, and there is a order of steps followed while performing tattoos. A tool named "Autapulu" is a comb that is used for filling the dark areas of the tattoo. The "Ausogi'aso tele" is used by Samoans to make deep and thick lines in the tattoos, while "Aumogo" is a small comb used for the purpose of making small marks in the body. The mallet that is used to strike the combs is known as "Sausau". It is around two feet long and is made using the mid rib of the coconut palm leaf. The pot where the combs are kept is known as "Tuluma" and the cup where the dye is kept is called "Ipulama". The dye is generally made using the soot collected from the burning of the lama nuts, and is grinded by "Tu'l". Sessions of a tattoo creation The complete process of tattoo creation is generally divided into five sessions, which took place in a period of ten days. The sessions were: The first session or O le Taga Tapulu: In this session, the tattoo artist decides the height up to which the tattoo will ascend. It is decided in such a way that the top portion of the design will be above the lavalava. The second session or the O le Taga Fai'aso: In this session, the portion around the abdomen and 'asolaititi are completed. Then the saemutu is to be added, which generally varies according to one's status in the society. This is a very painful session. The third session or the Taga Tapau: This is a session of solid tattooing, and the portions near the thighs are completed. The penultimate session or the Taga o Fusi ma Ulumanu: The ulumanu is tattooed in this session, from the center of the thigh to the upper groin. The final session or the 'Umaga: The abdomen, the area covering the navel (known as the pute) is covered in this session, and is the most painful of all sessions. Tattooing is an important process in the life of a Samoan man. Although it is extremely painful and people often get scared during the process, one needs to get him tattooed in order to save himself from being considered a recluse by the society. Even women of the society ridicule men without a tattoo, and fathers never choose men without a tattoo for their daughters.