Tatau: Marks of Polynesia showcases the striking work of Samoan tattoo masters as well as younger apprentices and practitioners working within and influenced by the tradition today. The exhibition present the 2,000-year-old origins and current practices of tatau tradition in the land of its inception, with particular emphasis on the influential Sulu’ape family and their disciples. The JANM exhibition will explore the beauty of tatau as well as its key role in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture. The spread of the art form outside of Samoa and some of its more contemporary applications will be demonstrated with photographs taken in New Zealand, Hawai‘i, California, and Nevada.
Among the artists whose work will be represented are Su’a Alaiva’a Petelo Sulu’ape, Su’a Peter Sulu’ape, Su’a Paul Sulu’ape, Su’a Sulu’ape Aisea Toetu’u, Sulu’ape Steve Looney, Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi, Mike Fatutoa, and Siisiialafia Liufau. Additional artists will be included to help showcase a broad spectrum of Samoan- and Polynesian-inspired tattoo work. Tatau is curated by Takahiro Kitamura, the master tattoo artist and author who previously curated Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World, which originated at JANM and is currently on a global tour. For the exhibition, Kitamura collaborated with Edward Danielson, MA, a lecturer in the University of Hawai‘i Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures; Sulu’ape Steve Looney and Danielle Steffany-Looney of Pacific Soul Tattoo in Hawai‘i; and Sean Mallon, author and Senior Curator of Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Due to schedule changes, the exhibition is available now through August 2021. You may wish to consider hosting this exhibition alongside a great complement - Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World, also a Japanese American National Museum production.