10 Aug 2011

Samoan tattooing opened up to public at University of Auckland

9:35 pm on 10 August 2011

The practice of Samoan tattooing has been opened up to the public at the Fale Pasifika this month at the University of Auckland, as part of a Heritage Arts Residency.

Traditionally, Samoan tattooing is done only in privacy with family.

During his month-long visit, Su'a Suluape Alaiva'a Petelo is creating a full-male tatau, called a pe'a, on a University of Auckland PhD candidate, Falaniko Tominiko.

Tattooing has begun on both of Falaniko's legs.

He says he is honoured to have been given a once in a lifetime opportunity with a distinguished tattooist to mark his culture.

"From a Western context its an exhibition. From a Polynesian cultural context its a classroom. And so everyone who comes in, learns it. And the good thing about the whole viewing process is that when they come in, everyone has to wear lavalavas. They are trying to keep it as authentic as possible, they have to sit on the mat. There are certain areas they can't go which are taboo. So not only are they learning the culture of the tatau, they are learning Samoan culture."

Falaniko Tominiko says it is encouraging when people come to watch as it helps to endure the pain.

Su'a Suluape Alaiva'a Petelo's residency is the third of four month-long residencies at the University, under the heritage arts programme.