With several cases of infection having probably been transmitted while tattooing because of inadequate safety measures, authorities in Samoa have already taken action on that matter. Along with the recent consultation for all tattooists in the country, a guideline was handed to the participants at Millenia Hotel in Apia in order to ensure safe work with the popular body art.
“Not enough,” says Fesoloa’i Imo Levi. The 27-year old tattoo artist specialises in preserving one of Samoa’s most valuable cultural assets – the Samoan Tatau.
“I come from a tattooing family that reaches right back to the myth of Taema and Tilafaiga, the Siamese twin goddesses who arrived on the island,” he said.
Having picked up his family’s tradition some years ago, Fesoloa’i was able to take this form of Samoan art to Europe, where he also learnt more about the safety aspects of using the needle.
“I’ve been travelling to Europe and America, and I know for a fact that I’m the only [tattooist] in Samoa who’s using single use needles for the traditional tattoos. And as far as safety goes, I do of course use the disposable gloves and sanitation procedures like the covering of pillows.”
For Fesoloa’i, the fact that most tattooists in Samoa reuse their needles without adequate sterilization is indeed a sad one.
“Today, the craft here in Samoa is only starting to realise the need for sterilising. It’s a new thing that I’ve gained through my travels and I know that outside of Samoa, everyone else is using needles only once. In this day and age, there are new diseases around. It might have been a more forgiving practice in the past, but today, I would absolutely not take that risk. For a country that claims for itself to be a ‘Tattoo Nation’, Samoa needs to keep up with overseas safety standards,” he stated.
The recent consultation is, according to Fesoloa’i, a major step forward to reach those standards.
He then outlined his expectations of the consultation at Millenia Hotel.
“I am really looking forward to the outcomes from today. I would love to see registration procedures where all [practicing tattooists] in Samoa are monitored and from there on, there should be action put into practice to guarantee safety.”