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.