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Samoan tattoo art
The art of tattooing has been practiced in Samoa for over 2000 years by now. If you go through the culture of Samoa, you will understand the tradition of adorning body with artistic tattoo designs. In fact, the term tattoo is believed to have its roots from the Samoan word for 'correct' or 'workmanlike', tatau. In Samoan culture, tattoos are flaunted with cultural pride and dignity. Both men and women etch tattoos on their body, wherein the designs are much heavier and painful in case of men.

The Tafuga decides the design for every individual. The tattoo artist then explains the hidden meaning to the individual who's getting the tattoo made. The meanings depend upon the design pattern, shapes, and its location.

One thing that differentiates Samoan tattoo art from other Polynesian tattoo designs is the absence of circles in the former. Also, the traditional Samoan tattoo designs and applications are restricted to the arms, legs, and other body parts, but never on the face.
Designs to Choose From
Samoan tattoo art is usually prominent, covering a large body area. The design pattern is often symmetrical, comprising lines, solid blocks and interwoven shapes. The traditional designs are applied by a master tattooist (Tafuga) with black ink which is prepared from burning candlenut shells.
samoan arm tattoo
Samoan Arm Tattoo
samoan arm tattoo
Samoan Arm Tattoo
samoan back tattoo
Samoan Back Tattoo
samoan leg tattoo
Samoan Leg Tattoo
samoan leg tattoo
Samoan Leg Tattoo
Traditional Designs and their Meanings
Men and women have unique tattoos and are known by different names. However, both have a very important and equal status in body modification. The traditional Samoan male tattoo is referred to as Pe'a, while that of female is known as Malu. These tattoos have specific implements having cultural significance and aren't done for just pleasure.
Pe'a
Pronounced pay-ah, these tattoos are done at the onset of puberty; as a rite of passage. It is more of a ritual accompanied with songs. The Pe'a design is applied in such a way that it covers the whole waist area to the knee line. The motifs inked on men have geometrical shapes, curved lines with thin cross beams (applied on the back), net-like patterns (specially around the groin area), and leaves of pandanus trees.
The Tafuga usually takes 10 days to complete the tattooing process, with 5 sessions and gap of 1 day in between sessions. The 5 sessions are proceeded in a step by step manner, with each session specific for a particular area. For example; height of the design (in back) is decided in the first session, after which the posterior section, thighs, middle thigh to groin and abdominal areas are covered in the following sessions. Nevertheless, it takes several weeks or at times years to complete applying Pe'a. Consequently, the healing period may last for as long as a year.
Malu
The original Malu design is without solid blocks and covers from upper thigh to the area just below knee line. Some women have Samoan arm tattoos with small designs. Popular shapes and patterns among Samoan women are dots, worm-like shapes, structure resembling leg of a golden plover and starfish.
Nowadays, Samoan tattoo patterns include kava bowls, waves, fish, birds, shells, and other symbols. Seeing the intricacies of these designs, we can understand how painful the procedure must be. Though such designs are getting a lot of attention in modern tattooing, not many people are ready to go through the pain of applying them. However, if you're keen on getting these designs made, you should find an experienced tattoo artist who has enough knowledge on the subject.