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Samoan Cultural Tattoos, Research Paper Example

Pages: 10

Words: 2763

Research Paper

A dragon head, a crucifix with barbed wire running around its frame or the infamous little stars running along one’s neck by side, it doesn’t matter which one you choose, tattoos are setting the trend in the fashion world. For thousands of years, human beings have marked their bodies. Because these marks are on an individual’s body, they are largely considered to be a personal show of one’s feelings, emotions and opinions towards certain aspects of human life. From the late 80s, tattoos were considered a symbol of rebellion and an outright depiction of an attitude towards a given society or culture. However, in the 21st century, tattoos are becoming a fashion statement with even the corporate world embracing this facet of fashion.

Tattoos have a rich and diverse history as are the people who wear them. The word Tattoo is derived from two words; “ta” a Polynesian word which means striking something, and “tatau” a Tahitian word which means to mark something. The history of this historical and social artifact stretches over 5,000 years ago where it is believe that the first tattoos were made by chance. The l991 discovery of the Iceman around the Italian-Austrian border pushed back the date for the earliest evidence of tattoos to 5,200 years through carbon dating.

Evidence of early existence and use of tattoos have been found in a number of archeological expeditions. These discoveries made have been linked to a number of ancient civilizations. Early evidence links the art of tattooing to civilizations in Egypt, Japan, China, Polynesia and New Zealand.

Uses

While the designs and patterns employed in a tattoo varies from one culture to another, their uses are quite similar across most of these cultures.

Therapeutic Uses

One of the most interesting uses of tattoos from history was for therapeutic purposes. It is postulated that the process of tattooing an individual was very much related to acupuncture. The tattooing process mainly involves inserting pigments in between layers of the skin. This process highly resembles the acupuncture procedure. This theory is further supported by the fact that some of the earliest evidence of tattoos depicts tattoos in position of the body that would be difficult to display as a mark of status. As a matter of fact, the Iceman was found to have a distribution of small crosses and dots on the ankle joints, lower spine and right knee. The locations of these tattoos correlate to positions of strain-induced degeneration.

Fashion

Long gone are the days when people, especially women were glared upon for donning a tattoo. Tattoos have slowly come to be accepted to be a form of art (MacNaughton). This is very synonymous with the fashion industry. Whatever is considered or perceived to be artistic at the particular moment, trends as the latest fashion. Tattoos have become a fashion statement, a work of art worn on the skin the same way clothes on the body or shoes on the feet (Worsely).

Fashion is considered a statement of one’s personality. When one wears a particular kind of dress or combination of apparel, they automatically identify with a given personality. Wild individuals go for the biker-leather type apparel, party girls go for the tight, skimpy dresses, and business people go for the sleek Italian suits and ties. The same way, tattoos have become the mode through which many people le their true personalities be seen by the world (Nagle). For example, a guy donning a dragon tattoo would be perceived to be an aggressive individual, a lady with a butterfly tattoo on her upper arm would be seen as a gentle soul, kind and caring. Tattoos define an individual’s identity.

Famous people tend to determine what is fashionable or not. Their position in the public limelight, sets them in a position where they have influence on perceptions of fashion. When Rihanna or Chris brown rock a certain look, it tends to go viral, every RnB fan start wearing the look. Famous personalities such as Angelina Jolie, Victoria and David Beckham, Megan Fox and many others have set trends in the tattoo fashion industry (MacNaughton). As a matter of fact, the current trending tattoo is the stars along the side of the neck all the way to the upper back. This tattoo is donned by Rihanna and Chris Brown and has seen many follow suit.

Tattooing has even adopted a new trendy name, “ink”. When one is tattooed, they are said to be ‘inked’. This has created an elite group of sorts, where ‘inked’ individuals readily identify with each other. It has led to a huge following on major social sites, twitter and Facebook being the most prominent. Even more, there have been fairs and events specially dedicated for the inked. The annual Tattoo Show is one major event. This year, it took place in Buenos Aires from 8th to 10th March. The event has created a whole new tattoo fashion industry. The event attracted about 40,000 people within the three days. This is testament that the tattoo fashion industry is growing.

It is rather evident that tattoos are slowly becoming the in-thing in this day and age. From the famous personalities influencing the popularity of fashion, the need for one’s individual to have their identity known, the need to make a fashion statement, to the changing culture and perception towards tattoos, tattoos will continue changing the fashion fads with more people getting ‘inked’ with each passing day.

Tattoos in the Samoan Culture

The Samoan culture has the practice of tattooing heavily engrained within the spiritual and ritual practices that they esteem. This culture has been practicing tattooing for over 2,000 years, and both males and females took part in the practice. The practice is performed by hand and has been performed by individuals of considerable rank and position within society. Most of the tattoo artists within the Samoan culture came from noble families with a recognized and respected birth order. Some of these noble kin were priests and priestesses.

One of the most important functions of the Samoan tatau was in its application as a rite of passage for young chieftains before ascending to power. This rite of passage was crucial in helping the new leader learn his fundamental spiritual obligations to his people. The tattoo artist involved in this process would usually be a priest or priestess who forever imprints on the new chief their culture and traditions. The antiquity of the Samoan tattoo, or tatau, is instigated from cultural tradition. It fundamentally resembles or symbolizes a significant rite of passage. The ritual use of a cultural or traditional Samoan tattoo design tributes the journey of an individual into adulthood, and the courage of the person undergoing the extensive and painful and process of receiving a tattoo.

As previously conferred, the aesthetic influence of these tattoo designs are widespread in the modern day tattoo designs and can be seen and witnessed on the skins of well-known and recognized celebrities. These designs still retain their deep contextual or background meanings as an inherent part of the Samoan tribal past. In the Samoa’s traditional history most of the males were subjected to tattoos when they were between the ages of 14-18. This is because it was the appropriate time resolved for tattoos since it was determined that the growth rate of body was diminutive, thus, the tattoo designs would not expand or stretch and therefore get damaged or suffer in beauty.

Currently, there is a robust revitalization of customary tattooing in the historical age group. This is not only happening in Samoa, but also all over Polynesia as a sign or emblem used to aid individuals to appropriately identify with their cultural. These designs particular entail patterns covering sections starting from the middle of the back part of the body all the way down to the knees. It also completely covers the buttocks, thighs, sides of the torso and parts of the groin. These tattoo designs were received by the youthful males precisely as a rite of passage into adulthood. Each of these tattoo designs are meant to tell a story of the individual’s social ranking and ancestry which are unique as the individual wearing the tattoo.

Drawing and sketching the tattoo designs requires a guru, which in Samoan culture is normally referred to as a Tufuga, or in other words a tattoo master. The Tufuga is qualified trained in the skilled processes of providing a tatau. They are also conversant with the cultural and symbolic significance of the numerous tattoo placements and designs. The Tufuga progenies are apprenticed in the tatau ceremonial by other older associates within the family since this skill is delivered through the family lineage and generations. The Tufugas are usually awarded various handouts comprising handcrafted goods and even food, for their respected and honored position in this significant rite of passage (Nagle).

One common tattoo design example in the Polynesian tattoo designs is the representation of the sun. The sun regularly goes with other tattoo symbols to aid in articulating the exact and explicit implication of the design. In the past designs, several curved Polynesian tattoo designs entail the sun’s meanings which in the Polynesian culture signify that the sun usually represents brilliance, riches, leadership and grandness. The sun’s intermittent rising and setting is observed or viewed as eternity, delivering and providing a constant source of power or energy, which is comparable to other cultures and traditions. In this particular case, the sun’s rising is linked to rebirth and setting of the sun or the sunset perceptibly does not signify death, but a passage to the world beyond.

Polynesian tattoo drawing which comprise of the sun can actually form design to design, offering comparable denotations according to the usage of the signs or symbols that institute the sun’s edge. The rays of the sun represented on the tattoos also offer different symbolic meanings which express related cultural or traditional values of the Samoan culture. The Polynesian sun designs are many which additionally comprise of creative designs and sketches from the skillful tattoo artists, that are not only limited to the example of the sun form which is mentioned above (MacNaughton).

Other symbolic tribal designs include the Samoan Turtle, which is an important animal in the community’s culture. Turtle shells are common in the Samoan tattoo designs and it generally symbolizes wellness, peace and longevity. The Samoan Leg Tattoo on the other hand, comprises of all the distinctive Polynesian symbols of the fish, the ocean and so on. This tattoo design is drawn in an excellent way such that different design symbols are brought together to integrate or combine into one beautiful design that stretches through the whole of the body calf muscles.

Other kind of Samoan tattoo designs includes the Shoulder Tattoo, which normally covers a big part of the upper bicep and the whole shoulder blade. It mainly comprises of the ordinary symbols with spirals and swirls that fill in the gaps using ocean symbols that often assist in accomplishing this task. In the Samoan culture, the ocean symbolizes death to the realm beyond since the Samoan traditional individuals believed that it is where people went to after they died. The Samoan Arm Tattoo is another great example of an artistic tattoo that runs along the stretch of an individual’s entire arm precisely a full sleeve tattoo that looks like the section of an Armor or shield worn on the arm.

Another culturally significant art derived from the Samoan tradition is the spinal cord tattoo. This particular design forms a spine like structure on the backside of the body which runs along the whole spine having distinctive Polynesian symbols. The design looks like a beautiful drawing of the spinal cord (spine) having an assembly of symbols conveying different meanings. The spinal cord tattoo design is common in women. The Foot Tattoo also possesses feminine features since it has flowers which make it look more womanlike. It consists of floral designs inclusive of other exemplary Polynesian symbols.

Common Samoan tattoos viewed and witnessed in the current modern day include the Samoan Forearm Tattoo which fits the forearm like an exquisite hand-band. It probably looks like an ornamental decoration that would be preferred by the old Egyptian pharaohs. This tattoo design has similar looks like other Samoan tattoo patterns but has different meanings depending on whatever symbol used to design it. One more profound tattoo design is the Samoan face tattoo which goes over the neck and face. It presents an intimidating and scary ancient like warrior look which includes emblems like the spearhead which represents courage or a warrior’s skill. These are Polynesian human forms signifying god and its power.

The underlying human thinking linked to the use of these particular tattoo designs primarily involve the reasons as to why people decide to get the tattoos in the current environmental setup. The subject of tattoos has experienced its fair share of misunderstanding among people which includes issues like the presence of body tattoos being forbidden in numerous work environments. Some parts of the world have deemed tattoos socially unacceptable especially in religiously strict nations like in sections of the Asian continent (Worsely). The history and purpose of wearing tattoos mainly depend and vary based on the person wearing them. Individual pieces having artistic features can be affiliated to the denotations that tend to or try to explain something about the person having the tattoo and his or her background.

Like described above, some of the reasons one would have for getting tattoos, especially the ones denoted above would be for cultural appreciation, beauty or the need to personally express themselves. The inspiration people look for in tattoos tend to be related to the need to honor loved ones in the family as a form of paying tribute to deceased individuals in the family and appreciate their origin. Getting a tattoo is a painful ordeal for some people; therefore, others might use the physical pain as a psychosomatic diversion from their emotional pain. Nevertheless, most of these tattoo designs are used a symbol of courage and power if one goes through the painful process of getting one. Another reason for getting one obviously is because of style. The tattoos are favored for making fashion statements for expressing and making unique individual styles or forms of body art. These are commonly viewed on individuals involved in showbiz events.

The question of how the different artistic works ‘perform’ in the museum context is mainly pegged on the origin of the designs. The Samoan tattoos are an archetype of the original designs dating back to the ancient time. The models imprinted in the tattoo designs or drawings have increasingly gained popularity over the years. These designs are mainly placed in museums to aid one to explore the cultural identity of the tattoos by appreciating the beauty, art and fashion.  In the context of the museum, the installation of these tattoo designs influence the visual appearance and properties through promoting the one’s self-identity towards a particular cultural meaning of specific tattoo designs.

The main reason for placing the artistic tattoo designs in museum is to encourage or motivates interested individuals to get affiliate themselves with a particular community and its artistry tradition in the Modern World. Gaining a large number of followers aids in promoting a particular design among peers and interested individuals who would be impelled to visit the museum. Judging from the numerous cases of the designs being showcases on very many entertainment videos or showbiz events like the Rugby players, wrestling TV, means that the designs and artistic features are rapidly gaining prominence in the modern day. The relevance of the art mainly is for motivational purposes.

The motivational categories that mainly encourage the use of the Samoan tattoo designs include art, beauty and fashion purposes. Subsequently the individuality affiliated to the art mainly depends on the person’s choice or need for physical endurance; personal narrative, commitment and group affiliations. Other properties promoted by the art include resistance which is largely pegged on cultural and spirituality tradition. Most frequently stated in the works are the appearance personal values and attributes. The most imminent property of tattoo designs or art is that it will ultimately propel future research that focuses on the magnitude of motivational attributes that reveal the individual significance and applicability for the attainment of cultural tattoos.

References

MacNaughton, A. London Tattoos. London: Prestel Publishing, 2011.

Nagle, J. Why people get tattoos and other body art. New York: Rosen, 2012.

Worsely, H. 100 Ideas that changed fashion. London: Laurence King Pub, 2011.

The Polynesian Tattoo Handbook. Place of publication not identified: Tattoo tribes, 2011. Print.

Stanley, David. Tonga-samoa Handbook. Emeryville, CA: Moon Publications, 1999. Print.

Wilson, Daniel H. Tattoos. United States: A & E Television Networks, 2010.

DeMello, Margo. Inked. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2014. Internet resource.

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