Marks of Polynesia” opens at Bishop Museum – Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu, HAWAII — The Bishop Museum unveiled today, Saturday, Nov. 13, Tatau — Marks of Polynesia,
Tatau: Marks of Polynesia explores the beauty of Samoan tattoos as well as the role they play in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture. Through an array of photographs, Tatau showcases the work of traditional Samoan tattoo masters alongside that of younger practitioners working within and influenced by the tradition today.
An important focus of Tatau: Marks of Polynesia is the influential Sulu‘ape family and their disciples; the legendary Petelo Sulu‘ape and his late brother Paulo are credited with spurring the resurgence of Samoan tattoos worldwide.
“Like a Samoa tattoo, it tells a story of our people and their way of life, so the designs they see are usually the environment, their family life, and the islands and oceans, and their way of life,” Sulu’ape Steve Rooney told KHON2.
As the Tatau exhibition highlights Samoan tattooing implements, Bishop Museum has also curated its cultural collection items to highlight implements from both Hawaiʻi and Sāmoa, as an added feature to the exhibition. Through this effort, the Museum aims to show the connections between the cultures of Polynesia through the lens of tattooing practices and traditions. These select items from Bishop Museum’s collections are rarely on view.
Tatau: Marks of Polynesia is organized by the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California, and is supported in part, by Mariko Gordon and Hugh Cosman. This exhibition is curated by Takahiro “Ryudaibori” Kitamura. Exhibit photography is by John Agcaoili.