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Prominent tattoo artist supports health and safety call

A prominent tufuga (traditional tattoo artist), Su'a Suluape Alaiva'a, has given his full support to new measures introduced by the authorities to ensure health and safety in tattooing.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer after tattoo artists from Samoa and Seattle had their tattoo kits seized by quarantine office at the American Samoa airport over public health concerns, Su'a said health and safety is extremely important.

An official from the American territory, John Fuimaono, said tattoo businesses will now have to undergo health inspections to ensure that their tools and places of operation meet sanitation regulations.

Traditional Samoan tattoo artists who travel to American Samoa for traditional tattooing will now be required to provide a letter from Samoa's Ministry of Health showing they are certified and approved by health inspectors.

Customs officials will now also considering collecting axes on artists who travel over. 

Su'a said it was now a must for Samoan tattooists to have their kits certified by the health Ministry.

About four years ago, a seminar between the tattoo artists and the Ministry of Health (M.O.H) was conducted, according to Su'a.

He recalls requesting a committee to conduct expert inspections. 

But he says the request was not followed up on.

He is happy now that they are finally moving on the issue. 

“So if any tattoo artists do not satisfy the requirement, they should not be allowed to work in America Samoa and overseas. The same should apply to people coming from American Samoa to Samoa, they should also follow the same procedures."

Su'a laments the lack of industry regulations.

“But the worse part is that the bad reputation of others is [implicating those of] us who are maintaining the health and safety standards."

Crucially, Su'a advised that tattoo artists and members of the public all have a responsibility.

For the artists, their responsibility is to ensure their equipments are safe. For the public, they can hold the artists to account if they feel the equipment is unsafe.

The risk is far too great, he said.

“There might be a time where the Ministry of Health would ban tattooing altogether," he said. "We don't want that. Tattooing is a gift from our ancestors to us, we want to do everything to ensure we preserve it and pass it on to future generations."

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