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Hawaiian Tattoos; Living History and Tradition

Hawaiian Tattoos; Living History and Tradition
March 15
13:19 2018

Hawaiian Tattoos; A Langauge and Tradition:

Hawaiian Tattoos, also known as mainly the Samoan tattoo culture, but in cases also Maori and others. What prevails on Hawaii as the quintessential Hawaiian tattoo style, is Polynesian tattooing. Perhaps it is even because of the Hawaiian people (as well as New Zealand people), that the Polynesian tattoo culture is one of the most well preserved ones, in existence.

In the Hawaiian tradition, when it is done the ancient way. The individual tattoo is not chosen by the individual, but by the tattoo master. It is based on the wearers history and personality, which the master then embodies in the tattoo. Using different symbolism in the imagery of the tattoo, to symbolize different characteristics and tell stories about the person. It is in a way a spiritual and very personal tattoo experience.

But even when not being seen as a spiritual experience, it is still a highly personal and reflective way, to get a tattoo. A way in which, a story is told through an ancient language. It is unlike most other tattoos today, as it is gifted to the client and seeks to honor their personality. Thus it is also much more about trust than anything else.

The Past:

Of course today, it is not as difficult as it was in the past, to get this kind of tattoo. In the past you had to earn your right to get a tattoo. It was a right of passage for the individual, it was a great deal of honor to earn your tattoo. The deeds you did would also be inscribed into the tattoo.

In this way, the Hawaiian tattoo, became a visiual language. When two individuals would meet on ancient Hawaii, they would be able to tell a lot about one another, from the tattoos. Especially when warriors met, the tattoos might intimidate the other warrior. Because they might tell of some grueling battles that he had survived.

It is an ancient artform, which has existed for thousands of years. Luckily there are more people keeping the hand tapping method alive today. But just a few decades ago, it was almost dying out. But luckily for the Hawaiian people as well as any tattoo nerds and enthusiasts. The traditions are being kept alive even today.

Final Comment:

We know that we are not talking too much about the history of Hawaiian tattooing. But if you want to learn more, looking at the work of Lars Krutak, an awesome anthropologist who loves researching tattoos. But without a doubt, if you dare put your trust in a Hawaiian master, you would be in for quite the honor and experience.

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About Author

Mads

Mads

Mads W. K. Masters of science in Sociology (Cand. Scient. Soc.), from the University of Copenhagen, who specializes in embodiment sociology, but especially in tattoos and tattoo culture etc.

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