Polynesian tattoos hold sacredness

Hope Ierome, Reporter

In the Polynesian culture, tribal tattoos are a very sacred tradition. It tells a story of how a young man or woman matures into a grown adult. In Samoa, we refer to it as the Tatu–Tatau, which means tattoo in Samoan.

Seeing people who are not of Polynesian descent with a tribal tattoo is a huge disgrace to the culture.  A young Samoan man with a traditional Samoan tattoo (known as a pe’a or soga’imiti) is a symbol of Tautua (service).

Each intricate pattern and marking holds a unique meaning to the Samoan culture and tradition. For someone to paint a mural on their body and have no knowledge about it whatsoever is saddening. You can not just simply get it for the sole purpose of aesthetics. Getting a Tatau means to commit solely to the Polynesian heritage and to identify yourself as one. Seeing that some people get it for the selfishness of appearance, or to look cool is offensive.

I feel it’s more appropriate and more respectful to the culture, that such individual may need to consult with the indigenous people of Samoa. As a young girl growing up in American Samoa, most of my youth years were taught understanding the Samoan heritage and language. My aunts and uncles would stress that I must comprehend the Fa’a-Samoa way, which means learning the Samoan way of life.

Properly addressing the Samoan culture, and respecting the significance it upholds are traditions that I hold dear to my heart. I understand many people are oblivious to the fact that it upsets some Polynesians (like me) when they get a tribal tattoo, but their lack of effort to learn the true meaning behind it is what angers me the most. To culturally appropriate one’s heritage is utterly disrespectful.

Christina Ta’aga’s (12) uncle inked a tribal tattoo on her leg when she was a sophomore in American Samoa. Tribals are festive designs in the Polynesian culture. “Each intricate pattern and marking holds a unique meaning,” she said.