Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Impetus

My reasons for creating this blog page is to expand on my website and to answer questions that have come up over the years. I started the Tongan Tatatau website in 2000 and have tried to continually update it. But with the new advances in social networking sites, it's easier now to do daily updates with Blogger than it is to make changes to the website. So please check back frequently for updates.

I've also decided to expand beyond Tongan tattooing to other areas of Tongan cultural history and practices not commonly understood in today's modern society. As always, I welcome your feedback, however, I will not respond to hateful responses and condescending, ethnocentric views from close minded people.


  1. youngnazarene youngnazare@gmail.comNovember 30, 2009 at 1:52 PM

    Hey there, friend.
    I'm glad you did so much research, and I am happy to see such an interest and love for our culture! I myself am a Samoan afatasi with the same love and respect for our culture as Tagata Mao'i.

    I didn't read through your entire article, but I was wondering: What is your take on the Samoan legend about the Tatau/Malofie? Do you believe that Samoans were the first to practice the cultural tattooing of the Malofie, after taking the tools first from Fiti? Or do you believe that the practice of the Tatau/Malofie began in Tonga?

  2. Hello youngnazarene,
    Thanks for responding to my page! To answer your question... I don't know? To say anyone was the FIRST to do anything is hard to define.

    As the story goes, Tilafaiga and Taema swam from Fiti with the tools and their tattoo song. If they were taught how to tattoo in Fiti, then Fiti would have been the first to practice cultural tattooing. But it gets confusing because there's a tradition in Fiti that says that the tools were brought back from the underworld to a high chiefess for tattooing. If that's the case, the Fiti wouldn't have been the first either..and so on.

    So it's hard to say where something actually originated... It's like the English language, it evolved out of other languages and continues to evolve today. We don't speak the same English as the first settlers to our country, but they didn't invent the English language when they arrived.

    All traditions -- tattooing, sculpting, building, carving, canoe making, etc -- come out of earlier traditions. People adapt them to their environment so it can continue to serve it's purpose to the community. That's why American English is different from British, and Australian English is different from American, and so forth.

    So to say that Tonga or Samoa (or even Fiti) was the first for anything is most likely incorrect. Samoa did uphold tattoo traditions long after it disappeared in Tonga, but that's because it served a useful purpose to maintaing Samoan society. Tonga became Christianized and adopted strong Christian values.. which meant tattooing was no longer allowed.

    Hope I answered your question. Please let me know if you have more. Thanks!

  3. Sure thing! Thanks for the response! Hope all is well with you!

    Just to clarify: I wasn't really asking about from where the 'art of tattooing' evolved. I was really specifically asking from where the Tatau/Malofie tradition evolved -- as in the Tongan/Samoan markings that signifty status, history, coming of age, and readiness for the battle lines. Does this describe the Tongan tradition concerning the Tatau/Malofie as well? See, the story of Taema and Tilafaiga, as I understand it, does not suggest that the Tatau/Malofie came from Fiti, but rather that the 'art of tattooing' came from Fiti, and that they themselves had designed the Tatau/Malofie for the purposes to which it has been designated in our Culture. Like our language, our Tatau/Malofie customs cannot be traced to anywhere outside of our Realm of Islands (Le Vasa Loloa, as we Samoans would call it, or Polynesia, as the Palagi geographers so lamely dubbed it). So what do you think?

    Has the Tongan Tatau/Malofie never held the same cultural significance to our Tongan brothers as the Samoan Tatau/Malofie has to our Samoan brothers? If so, do you think that that that cultural significance sprouted first in Tonga or in Samoa, as the Taema/Tilafaiga legend does claim?

    I'm sorry if I sound like I'm asking the same question as last time. Your insight is really appreciated, truly!

    Thanks again for your time. That would be awesome if you emailed me -- not very many people, even our own island brothers and sisters, sadly, are interested in topics like these, so it is genuinely exciting to meet you. :)

  4. Manulua,

    I think what you're doing with regards to sharing Tongan traditions is great! I am of Samoan ancestry but I do appreciate the beauty of all Polynesian cultures and traditions, art, music, and dance. Aside from our hospitality, these are things that sets us apart from the rest of the world and to perpetuate your pride through education and sharing can only do wonders for the Tongan youth. Keep up the good work and thank you for sharing with us!

    Tupa'i Jr

  5. Malo 'aupito Tupa'i Jr! I appreciate your comment and thanks for stopping by! Manuia le aso. Soifua. Ni

  6. Very interesting , Thank you for Sharing this .Always fascinated w/the History of my people although i am Half Tongan & Half Ouvean . Nevertheless i am polynesian . Thanks again Manulua , God Bless " C.Maealiuaki ..