Monday, February 9, 2009

Ancient Hawaiian Tattoos Revival

Tattoos have always been an important part of the culture of Western Polynesia. Hawaiian culture is no different to any of the other pacific Islands when it comes down to the importance of tattoos in Hawaiian culture. Tattoos have been practiced in Hawaiian culture for thousands and are done as a form of celebration, a means of self expression and membership of a tribe.

The tools used for tattooing in Hawaii have traditionally been borrowed from nature unlike the technologically tattoo machines used today. Tools used for tattooing were - bird beaks, claws and large fish bones. Hawaiian tattoos composed mainly geometric and symmetrical designs but slowly evolved into more pictorial forms such as images of animals with the influence of Europeans in Hawaiian culture.

Looking for Hawaiian tattoos?

Meaning of Hawaiian Tattoos
To understand the importance tattoos played in traditional Hawaiian culture it is useful to look at the etymological roots of the word tattoo. The literal translation of the word for tattoo in Hawaiian is uhi, meaning a covering. This hints at the importance it carries in their society especially in terms of defining hierarchy. The symbolism of tattoos was as a benchmark of privilege whereby the quantity and intricacy of tattoo designs defined one’s status.

Tattoos have many meanings, and have been displayed on various places of the body. In some of the lithographs, hawaiian women wore designs concentrating mainly on their hands, feet, fingers and calves. Facial tattooing was also common in Hawaii; typically found on the brow ridge, cheek, cheek bone and chin.

Hawaiians view tattoos on a man’s body as a sign of status and importance. Intricate tattoos were done by the highly skilled artists; an exclusive preserve for the chiefs and their families while the rest of the population and women got it done by the apprentices. The tattoos of women were less extensive being limited to the hand, arms, feet, ears and lips.

A lot of Hawaiian tattoo designs seem to have an almost hidden meaning, which is generally much deeper and personal. This is what sets them apart from their Pacific Island neighbors. Hawaiian tattoo designs are bolder and larger than Maori or Samoan forms. This may be due to the fact that Hawaiian tattoos have more to do with individual identification than for ceremonial purposes, according to anthropolgical studies.

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