‘Polynesian Tattoos’ The Art of Ink (Season 2) Digital Exclusive | Paramount Network

– [Si’i Liufau] We are able to
look at our tattoo and remind us that this is where we
came from, this is who we are and these are the stories
that define us as a people. – [Alipate Fetuli] This
was like a right of passage where you force this kid into
some crazy (beep) and then when he makes it out, it’s
like he’s ready for the world. – [Mike Fatutoa] Tattooing is
just one of those clever ways of making sure that traditions
are never forgotten. There’s so many deviations
of the same thing because they’re relaying
the same stories over and over, all the way
back to the first stories. (upbeat music) When I first got into tattooing,
I wasn’t really leaning to tattoo Polynesian artwork. I really didn’t
know much about it. It wasn’t till my family
started asking me for Polynesian tattoos and
I wanted to be able to understand the artwork
that I was giving to them. I ended up learning
more about my culture and it kind of led me into
becoming full into Tau tattooing traditional sao moon sao. – I was born in eastern Samoa,
but I grew up in Hawai’i. Pursuing Polynesian
tattooing, that was a comfort zone for me, because I was
familiar with the motifs, and I could grab a
hold of it because that was my first language. – I never sought out to be
a Polynesian tattoo artist. When I first got into
tattooing, I was doing gangster stuff on
the West Coast. It wasn’t until I had my
son, where I was like, man you know what? I’m going to try to
be a professional, and that’s when I hooked up
with my very first tattoo job. – [Si’i Liufau] Polynesian
tattooing is the artwork of the oceanic people,
the people of the pacific. – Polynesian tattooing is a
body of work of different styles from different places. Hawai’i, New Zealand,
Samoa, Tonga, New Caledonia, parts of Fiji. – [Si’i Liufau] That’s a common
belief that the word tattoo in our english language did
come from the word tatau and came from the early
visits by Captain Cook and those voyages. Those were some of the
first people that recorded their experience with
Polynesian people, so, when they seen what we
were doing and it was called tatau, the word transformed
over time to tattoo. Tatau is the art of tattooing
that’s been practiced in Samoan culture for
thousands of years. The traditional Polynesian
tattoo starts from the midback and goes down to below the
knees and it’s very heavy. It’s very linear with a
lot of geometric shapes. All of our markings
are tied to the earth, they represent plant
life, animal life, oceans. We try to embody certain
characteristics of these animals into ourselves. Probably one of the
most widely seen shapes is the octopus tentacle. The octopus is a soft
body but it’s one of the smartest animals
in the ocean. It’s also one of the strongest
animals in the ocean. – We see a lot of sea
creatures in our tattoo works because that was the
environment of our ancestors. They were natural voyagers,
they went from each island and settled there, settled
here, that’s why you see so many ocean based motifs. – [Si’i Liufau] We have
two tools, the Sausau and the Au, one hand
I hold the Au and the other one with the Sausau. And we’re just striking
that into the skin. Our tools were made of woods
that we found on the island, and turtle shell for the
backing and boars tusks, which were filed and sharpened
to create a tattoo comb, that actually made the mark. Now, turtle shell is
illegal, so we replaced that with plexiglass or fiberglass. – The tufuga or tattooer,
both his hands are occupied so, the role of the
stretchers is to position the skin to where the
tattooer is trying to implement his designs. – The stretchers are called
coso au coso or au solo, these are the men or sometimes
women that help us out. Not only do they stretch
the skin and hold it so that the tools can puncture and
make their mark, but they also help soothe the person
that’s getting tattooed. – Being a coso is the beginning
of the learning process of understanding the
work that goes into it. – [Si’i Liufau] The ceremony
that we do at the finishing of a tatau is called the Sama. This is where we finish the
work and we bless the tattoo we rub the person that’s
recently tattooed with fenuual with coconut oil and
langah to help the body heal. – It’s a ceremony for the
men who had the courage to go all the way through. When we tattoo people we’re
not just doing the motions this is some ancient shit. There’s a lot of
emotion and energy that goes into what we do. – One of the beautiful
things about being over here is I get to work
with a bunch of guys that are really passionate
about what we do, and the true meaning
of our art form. Just to be able to share our
art of Polynesian tattooing and the knowledge
that keeps it sacred. Especially this far
away from the islands that created our style. – What Polynesian
tattooing means to me is a reconnection, to
all my ancestors and everybody behind me. Cause I’m not only
speaking for me, but I’m speaking for
a whole generation of kids that are like me, that
are getting Polynesian tattoos to reconnect. – The recent revival of
Polynesian tattooing has a lot to do with people trying to
find their cultural roots, their identity, when I put
these designs on people they’re taking a piece of me and my culture with them. Polynesian tattooing
have been around for thousands of years
and I don’t see it going away anytime soon.


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