Tatau: Marks of Polynesia | Go Hawaii

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Tattooing has long been held as not just a practice in art but also a way to tell stories through art, through the intimate painting of one's body. Samoa's tatau is one of the world's most distinct tattoo traditions. It is an indigenous art form dating back 2,000 years, and has played a pivotal role in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture.

In Samoa, tufuga ta tatau (master tattoo artists) are granted high status in society and acquiring tatau is considered a powerful affirmation of national identity, particularly for young men, for whom it is an important rite of passage.

This exhibition is an opportunity to learn what tatau signifies in Samoan culture, and how it helps Samoans and other Polynesians living abroad stay connected to their identity and heritage.

An important focus of Tatau: Marks of Polynesia is the influential Suluape family and their disciples; the legendary Petelo Suluape and his late brother Paulo are credited with spurring the resurgence of Samoan tattoos worldwide.

Tatau: Marks of Polynesia is organized by the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California, and is supported in part, by Mariko Gordon and Hugh Cosman. This exhibition is curated by Takihiro "Ryudaibori" Kitamura. Exhibit photography is by John Agcaoili.

Tatau: Marks of Polynesia

December 08, 2021 - July 04, 2022
9:00am - 5:00pm
Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St
J.M. Long Gallery
Honolulu, HI 96817
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  • Contact Organization: Bishop Museum

Location: Oahu