Two Samoans inked at 13th FestPac

By Talaia Mika 11 June 2024, 8:00PM

Two Samoan men are getting their traditional Samoan tatau as part of the Carving and Tattoo Demonstration at the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture in Hawaii. 

The Assistant Executive Officer to the Chief Executive Officer of Education and Culture, Lotu Ah Kuoi and a co-worker are proudly getting the tatau as the world watches the various cultures from across the Pacific. Su'a Faalili Suluape is the tufuga (traditional tattooist) for this event.

Ministry of Education C.E.O Aeau Christopher Hazelman told Samoa Observer the importance of the event and realising similarities between cultures.

"Tattooing has always been a part of the Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture. For years Samoa had our master tattooist Su'a Suluape  Alaivaa Petelo lead this group and then later his son Su'a Peter Suluape," he said.

"For this event we have Su'a Faalili Suluape. We have two staff members from MEC who will get their tatau and malu completed.

"They all share common practices and so far I have witnessed the respect for cultural protocols that are all very similar such as not standing behind the tattooist while work is in session, wearing hats and sunglasses in the fale, wearing ie lavalave if you want to watch, etc."

He also acknowledged the support of the tattooing community for those getting their traditional tattoos, especially the tatau.

At the tattooing space at FestPac are tattooists from Tahiti, Rapa Nui, American Samoa, Tonga and Samoa.

American Samoan tufuga ta tatau (master of traditional tattooing), Su'a Uilisone Fitiao, has been doing tatau for at least 20 years and he's honoured to be at the 13th FestPAC representing his nation.

"We don't draw, we just tattoo," he said.

When people come for a tatau, Su'a doesn't work from an image, instead he relies on mana.

"We understand in the mana and the person, through our communication, the energy through me and the person laying [down]," he says.

"It's like a gift, whatever we give this gentleman, that is only for him. We don't re-tattoo something."

"We don't draw, we just tattoo".

Meanwhile, indigenous tattoo practitioners from various Pacific nations will proudly showcase their heritage art and share techniques.

Carving demonstration will also include Hoe Uli (large steering paddle), Kiʻi Kanaloa or god of the ocean (Taʻaroa, Tangaroa, Tangaloa), and Waʻa Kaulua (double hulled canoe).

By Talaia Mika 11 June 2024, 8:00PM
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