Historically speaking the Polynesian culture had no written language, which is why their culture was expressed via tattoo art. The tattoos were comprised of distinctive signs which expressed personality and identity. Each tattoo had a particular meaning, i.e. it would either specify a person’s place in the hierarchical structure, their genealogy, or sexual maturity. That’s why nearly every person in ancient Polynesia had tattoos.
One of the first Polynesian islands first visited by Europeans were the Marquesas Islands. The first people to land were the Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendanga de Neira as early as 1595. However, early explorers had little interest in the local’s tattoos because the area lacked any valuable natural resources.
Polynesian Tattoos in Tonga and Samoa
It was in Samoa and tonga that the art of Polynesian tattoos was truly refined and developed. Tongan warriors were the most tattooed, usually from the waist right down to the knees. The tattoos were a series of geometric patterns, which consisted of bands, motifs and solid black lines.
Similarly, Priests who had been through extensive training and had to follow strict rituals, and taboos, would be tattooed. Tattoos for the Tongans carried a lot of cultural significance and meaning.
In Samoa, tattoos were a huge part of annual religious rituals and even warfare. The tattoo artist was born as one and had a very high status in society. His job would entail tattooing up to a group of eight men, during any given ceremony attended by relatives and friends. However, it was not unusual for Samoan women to also be tattooed.
Polynesian Tattoos Today
Polynesian tattoos are some of the most sought after by Westerners for their beauty and variety. However, to get the best, Polynesian tattoo, it is important to consult with an expert. Make sure that the tattoo shop is reputed and specializes in Polynesian tattoos.