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.


  1. Good read brother.. i am sorry and ashamed that some of my own people(Samoan) may have been one of those negatively criticising you. I have a suspicion on who this person is.

    Anyways, the more we discover our true past, the more we see how much more connect our people are. It's okay to have a rivalry with our brothers to the south. That's our nature. But we need to leave the hate out of it. Brothers will always fight and love one another.

    Peace to you

  2. I appreciate the message! Thanks for taking the time to stop by my blog! Much love. Ni

  3. Thank you for your post Manulua. Another a apology from another samoan. Im sorry to hear all the neg comments made to you.

    Samoan history through song and dance say that the art of tattooing came from Fiji. So neither Tongan or Samoan.

    Im so glad the Tongans are taking back the tatatau. God Bless!

  4. Tokoua Teu fkmalo atu mo ho'o ngaue lahi moe 'ofa ki he nhaahi 'aati fk Tonga moe polonisia kotoa. 'oku tau monu'ia i he Tapuaki moe kelesi 'ae Eiki etau fkmanatu i he taimi tu'i Tonga Mo'oni...
    I just want to express my grattitude and appreciation for all the efforts on your web page.. this year was my Humble Journey of the Vaka Tatatau by Sulu'ape Aisea Toetu'u it was one of youtube's most contriversal Documentary ceremony of my Celebration...I dedicate my Jounrney to my Family of the Taumopeau Roots
    My People and mySelf.. My humbleness of the vaka honors our Samoan Brothers and Sisters who Used to Give the Tatau To Tongans in those days...I'm proud to be one the few of us who carries it in Respect and a Servant to my People...i'm currently on a vaka oversea's in Saudi Arabia waters...wish this letter finds you in Good Heealth, i give my thanks.. Ofa'atu 'Ata

  5. every tufunga in samoa credit FITI,MANU'A as the place where taema and tilafainga came from. not fiji,hawaii,tonga,new zealand etc. i heard while visiting in tonga it was a custom for our ancestors to visit samoa to get tattooed by the Tufungas of Samoa much the same way in the past for Tongans to commissioned samoan KALIA tufungas to biuld there vesels and on many occassions brought those skills back to Tonga. the thinking is that most of the hardwoods and resource's to biuld where only found in near by samoa. It is fact that all royal families of TONGA or the samoan equivalent of TAMA'AINGA share common ancestry with one another there why the many similarity's in formal gatherings etc. however even with that, Tonga has more in common with the people of UVEA_WALLIS_ FUTUNA northwest of the SAMOA's. if you compare the two it is likely that Tongans & Uvea'n people's have more in common. as far as traditional/Tattooing I think as people know it today, it was always a samoan custom, imported by our ancestors, like importing kie hamoa in our customs.
    thanx for putting this up

  6. Thank you for your comment and opinions!