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Tatau: A History of Samoan Tattooing


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* Traces the origins of tattooing back 3000 years and connects the prehistory of the practice to around 1500 B.C., and the early seafaring ancestors of the Polynesian people.
* Examines Samoan tattooing from the 1700s to the 1900, drawing on indigenous accounts and the writings and observations of European explorers, missionaries and colonial officials. It includes stories of the impact of the missionaries on tattooing, Samoan resistance to restricting the practice, the tattooing of Europeans, Tongans and other foreigners. It also examines westerners' fascination with tatau and their efforts to document and display it in institutions in Europe.
* Examines the history of Samoan tatau in the 20th century, including the impact of World War One and
Two on tattooing, and the expansion of Samoan tattooing in the post war years, the migration and development of Samoan communities overseas and how tatau has changed as a result.
* Highlights the interests and engagement of European and American tattooing communities with Samoan tattooists in the 1980s and 1990s.
* Features two important ethnographic snapshots or case studies. These are new and detailed contributions to the existing literature that capture the dynamics of contemporary Samoan tattooing as a living art form.
* There has been no single publication on Samoan tattooing since Carl Marquand's Die tatowirung beider Geschlechter in Samoa/The tatttooing of both sexes in Samoa. English Translation by Sibyl Ferner.
Although reprinted, this book was first published in 1899. The Te Papa Press publication Tatau: Samoan tattooing, New Zealand Art: global culture (2010) was focused primarily on the work a small group of tattooists and the photographic work of Mark Adams and is now out print.
* Handsomely designed and packaged.
* Highly regarded authors.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Sean Mallon 10
Foreword: Sébastien Galliot 12
Introduction 14
CHAPTER 1: Tatau: Ancient Traces 19
Tatau: European encounters and observations, 1722–1900 33
Greg Semu portfolio 177

Tatau: Persistence and change,1900–2000 97
Greg Semu portfolio 177

Tatau as a ritual institution, 2000–2010 178
John Agcaoili portfolio 225

Tatau and its globalisation, 2000–2017 241

Postscript 298
Acknowledgements 302
Glossary 304
Bibliography 308
Image credits 319
About the contributors 320
Index 322

About the Author

SEAN MALLON is of Samoan and Irish descent and is Senior Curator Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. He is the author of Samoan Art and Artists (2002) and co-edited Pacific Art Niu Sila: The Pacific dimension of contemporary New Zealand arts (2002) Tatau: Samoan tattoo, New Zealand art, global culture (2010) and Tangata o le Moana: the story of New Zealand and the people of the Pacific (2012). His exhibitions include Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth (with Maud Page) (2009); Tangata o le Moana (2007), Voyagers: discovering the Pacific and Tatau/Tattoo (2002). He has been a council member of The Polynesian Society since 2008.

SEBASTIEN GALLIOTT studied ethnology at the University of Provence and EHESS (Paris), France's foremost research school in social sciences. His research focuses on Samoan traditional tattooing and the contemporary practice of this ritual. Since 2001, he has made several visits to Samoa, Tonga and Fiji in order to do field research. His articles include "Samoan tattoos leave indelible global imprint", Voices: Unesco in Asia and the Pacific, 27 July- September 2011, pp. 10-11. Sebastien is also a self-taught photographer and filmmaker. During a one-year residence in Samoa in 2005, he took hundreds of pictures and hours of film and exhibited a selection of those photographs in France (Marseille, Correns). He has given guest lectures on tattooing at Te Papa and at conferences in Samoa and Europe.


'It is a visual feast, celebrating the tactile pleasure of a book in the hand, and should be acknowledged as a milestone in contemporary publishing ... a book that will expand and enrich the knowledge of readers throughout Aotearoa, the Pacific and beyond' - Ockham New Zealand Book Awards; 'Lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced, it's no surprise this stunning book has been shortlisted for the Illustrated Non-Fiction Award in the 2019 Ockham Book Awards. Tracing the singular history of Samoan tattooing practices during the last 3000 years, this book is the first comprehensive study that looks at the cultural and practical history of Samoan tattooing.' - New Zealand Herald; 'Exhaustively researched, and enriched with interviews and striking documentary photography, it is a fitting tribute to a vital 3000-year-old tradition.' - New Zealand Geographic; 'An extraordinary, scholarly and richly illustrated word that traces Samoan tattooing from its pre-European beginnings and ponders the contemporary state of the ancient art.' - NZ Listener, selected for Best Books of the Year list, November 2018; '... this history takes a more-is-more approach, with a staggering amount of information, both visual and verbal ... Everything is meticulously and tastefully managed right down to the intricately conceived and designed dust jacket.' - North & South.

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