Sunday, March 7, 2010


I just needed to clear this up with today's blog since several people have written me regarding this issue. It is obvious that they did NOT read the blogs because I do not say anywhere that tongans invented traditional tattooing.

Just to clear things up AGAIN. Samoa is the only recognized island in the Polynesian island group to have continued traditional tattooing to the present day. There are tufuga tatau families in Upolu that have passed on the tradition from generation to generation. Although tattooing is outlawed in Samoa, it is still practiced with moderate interference by the law.

Tonga once practiced traditional tattooing, but it was outlawed in 1839 by the Tongan government because it was considered unnatural in the Christian world. Despite the outlawing of tatatau in Tonga, Tongan chiefs would still travel to Samoa (as they had done for centuries) to get tattooed by one of the tufuga tatau.

The other issue that has come up is "who was first to practice tattooing". The answer - "I don't know?" But if you want to believe that Samoans were the first, then so be it. If you understand that culture and traditions are handed down from generation to generation, then the beginning of tattooing predates beyond Samoa to earlier cultures beyond the Pacific. Tattooing has been around for thousands of years. Egyptians tattooed, Indians also tattooed their bodies; early Europeans had extensive tattoos across their body. Tattooing is not a Polynesian/Pacific Island invention. Samoa has their own unique tattoo tradition that has developed over hundreds of years to become uniquely identifiable as Samoan. But the same holds true for other Pacific Islands. So to say that Samoa or Tonga was first to tattoo or develop Pacific Island tattooing is basically meaningless to what this blog is about. I am just trying to spread the knowledge that Tonga had a tattoo tradition that is now non-existant. A revival of this knowledge is ongoing, but it will never supersede Samoan traditional tattooing. Please understand that this is not my intention and Tongans would NEVER say that tattooing is a Tongan invention. It is understood by every Tongan that tatau is a unique identity of being Samoan. Enough with the rivalry between who's better than who. I do not live in that world, so keep it out of mine.