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Kunsten på Kroppen
The art of tattooing

Photos of tattoos,
and presentation of:
Kai Uwe Faust
Patricia Campos
Marcus Hammer

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The History of Tattooing
Polynesia
The Maoris - Tahiti - Samoa - Marquesas

From Tahiti comes the word: Tattoo!

The explorer Captain Cook came to Tahiti in the 1700-hundreds, and heard the natives call it "ta-tau". He brought the word to Europe.
He did make some mistakes though, when he put it down to English phonetics. For a long time it has been thought that the word related to the sound of the sticks that beats the colour into the skin. But new knowledge of the Tahitian language *) tells us that it shall be spelled ta-ta-u.

The double ta-ta does not relate to the sound, but to an act that is done with your hand. U means colour.
A few examples: Ta-tara = to pull a thorn out, when you have been stung.
Ta-iri = to beat with your hand.
Ta-hiri = to use a fan made of laced palm leaves.
Ta-pu = to place something in your hand and make an offering (pu) to the gods, whereby it becomes holy - this has given the word Taboo!
Ta-hiri = to apply oil.

The repetitive ta-ta tells that you with your hands beat several (two) times, to get the colour u into the skin.
Thus: Tatau.

Other sources tells us that it may be more complicated. In Samoan the word tatau means "must, necessary, appropriate" - because it is necessary to get a tattoo in life.

*) Thanks to Michel Yieng Kow for the information.

Tattooing technique: 
The old tattooing technique was the same in all the Polynesian Islands. A number of needles were attached to the end of a stick, and they used another stick as a hammer to beat the needle stick with. 


A pair of fine guys from Tahiti

 

Both photos are from the book:
Gian Paolo Barbieri: Tahiti Tattoos
Taschen, 1999

 

 

Kunsten på Kroppen
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