Polynesian tattoo has transformed itself into a popular type of art, ever since it was developed in countries like Samoa and Tonga. In the latter country, warriors decorated themselves with tattoos beginning from the knees, right up to their waists. These tattoos either came in tribal patterns, or geometrical ones – In particular, bands, triangular shapes, and spaces filled with black ink. Priests who have been trained for years and obeyed rituals were the ones responsible for the tattooing process. In Tongan culture, these tattoos often held plenty of meanings regarding their own culture.
Captain James Cook was an Englishman responsible for discovering the Polynesian Triangle. He was also the reason why tattoos gained popularity in Europe later on. Meanwhile, Joseph Banks, Cook’s companion and a naturalist, was the one who confirmed the existence of tattoos, writing them on his journal. When Captain Cook came back to Europe from his travel to Polynesia, he told the story about tattoos to his fellow countrymen – The designs, the process, as well as its original term, “tattaw”. When he returned to Polynesia, Cook brought with him a native called Ma’i, who introduced the concept of tattooing to English, and eventually, Europe.
Types of Polynesian Tattoos
The Tiki tattoo art is one of the more famous types of Polynesian tattoos. According to Polynesian folklore, Tiki was the very first human – So a lot of people in the islands carved statues and built temples for him, in his honor. Depictions of Tiki have him covered in tribal tattoos and geometric pattern tattoos.
Traditional Samoan Tattoo
A common Polynesian Tattoo Design is the pe’a. A lot of people like this type of tattoo, since it belongs to Polynesian culture. The pe’a is frequently spotted on Samoan natives, since a lot of people obtain them during an initiation rite. The pe’a is placed on a person’s midriff, from their waist down to their knees. Its design involves plenty of lines winding around the person’s body. The niho mano, also known as shark teeth, is another popular traditional Polynesian tattoo design. At least fifty percent of tattoos in Polynesia have images of shark teeth in them.
Tattoos take on a more personal note in Hawaiian culture, because of the fact that they carry a meaning that’s highly important to its owner. One more reason why tattoos are so popular in Hawaii is because people believed that tattoos have the ability to protect their owners from imminent danger. Aside from that, they were also used for decorative purposes. Some Hawaiians get tattoos to honor a departed family member or friend. In Hawaii, the most popular types of tattoo designs include flowers, abstract patterns, and turtles.
Samoan Turtle and Shells Tattoo
Another common motif found in Polynesian tattoos is the turtle. The turtle tattoo is made when the artist places together two enatas. Legend has it that turtles are considered as the method souls use to reach the afterlife, after they pass on. Turtles are also a common symbol of good health, family unity, fertility, and long life.
Ocean and Waves
Since Samoa is located on an island, its natives have relied on the ocean to earn a living. Polynesian people have this belief that the ocean is where all of the souls go after they die. Oceans are symbolized by an arc, or an incomplete circle that is moving outwards. A line is usually added to the circle, which stands for the waves that its natives will see often when they’re out at sea.
Meaning of Polynesian Tattoos
The shell is a frequent star of Polynesian tattoo design, and the most common one is perhaps the turtle shell. Since turtles are beloved by Polynesian natives, its shell has come to represent peace, wellness, longevity, and fertility. Sea shells are another popular design in Polynesian tattoos, since they signify protection, intimacy, and shield. Bivalves stand for marriage and couples. In contrary to other designs, the sea shell isn’t really present in most Polynesian tattoo designs.
Sharks are revered as gods in Polynesian lore, and this is why it’s frequently spotted in plenty of designs. Shark teeth, in particular, stand for power, shelter, guidance, adaptability, fierceness, and courage. Shark teeth tattoos are highly diverse as well – You can get a singular shark tooth tattoo, or a full set of teeth, or even multiple rows.
Another common element spotted in Polynesian tattoo design is the spearhead. As a weapon, the spearhead symbolizes willpower, courage, and dominance. Much like the sun and the moon, the spearhead’s meaning can change depending on the person who owns the tattoo. A line of spearheads that’s parallel to an upside-down line of Enatas can stand for a person’s defeat of his own rivals.
Ideal Placement of Polynesian Tattoos
A tattoo’s position on the body is sure to greatly affect the way it looks. That’s because the colors, the size, and the design itself is frequently associated with the amount of skin available for the design.
The placement of Polynesian tattoos were highly important for Polynesian natives, and this is still carried on up to this day. But there’s a huge difference when it comes to the importance that Polynesians gave their tattoos, and the tattoos that people have nowadays – In Polynesia, a tattoo’s position actually stood for something.
If you plan to get a tattoo on your wrist, then a Polynesian tattoo is not one of the best choices. But if you want to place the same kind of tattoo on your back, then by all means do it – Since your back is a bigger canvas that the tattooist can work on. A good Polynesian tattoo design also covers a massive part of the person’s arm sleeves.
Even though men are usually the ones who get Polynesian tattoos, its designs are popular with women as well. Ancient female natives obtained these types of tattoos for plenty of reasons. For instance, women would get tattoos on their hands so they can perform the Kava ritual at ceremonies. Meanwhile, men tend to go for something simple, such as a design of a snake going around the arm.
Polynesian Tattoos Preparation Tips
It’s recommended that you get a tattoo after you turn eighteen. Keep in mind that a tattoo lasts on your body forever, so pick your design very carefully. Although it’s still possible to remove it or have it covered with a bigger tattoo, these two can be very expensive, not to mention, just as painful as the tattooing process itself. That’s why you should consider your Polynesian tattoo as something you cherish for the rest of your life. A tattoo done by a novice can not only make you regret that you ever got it in the first place, but it can also result in an infection if you’re not careful.
Get to know your tattooist’s artwork. Research online or check out some reviews of his designs from past clients. Try to meet up with him if possible, or go look at his portfolio. And not only that, you should check the parlor itself – A good tattoo parlor must be sanitized, and use clean equipment.
Average Service Cost & Standard Price for Getting Polynesian Tattoos
A tattoo is either priced by the hour, or by its size, the amount of colors used, the details, or if it’s an original design. A tattoo is charged by the hour if it’s a custom-made one. That’s because these designs are often huge, and could probably take more than two hours to finish. You or your artist can draw the design on paper, then have it printed onto your skin as a stencil. Before he can start, the artist will determine the amount of time it takes for the piece to be completed, then will tell you the amount of cash you will pay for your new ink.
Maintenance Tips After Getting Polynesian Tattoos
In order to make your Polynesian tattoo look as fresh as the day you got it, you must keep it clean at all times, and protect it from the elements. Moisturize and clean it at least twice a day. When your scabs are peeling off, don’t pick on them since it can give you scars.
Each tattoo artist has their own opinion regarding the amount of lotion or ointment to place on your tattoo after you remove the bandage. You can get either one or both, as long as it’s scent-free and does not contain any harsh ingredients. Place a thin layer on your fresh tattoo for over a week.
Once you acquire that polynesian tattoo, take care of it very well to prevent it from being infected, and allow it to heal properly. Your artist will provide you with a list of aftercare tips.
Polynesian tattoos in particular can take a while to completely heal up – So it’s a good idea to get them after the summer months, or a week after you hit the beach.