For those of you living near, or visiting Los Angeles, take some time and check out the Tatau exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum. The exhibit is titled, Tatau: Marks of Polynesia, and is a photographic exploration of Samoan tattoo practice.
Tatau explores the beauty of Samoan tattoos as well as the key role they play in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture. Through photographs taken in the studio and on location in Samoa and elsewhere, the exhibition showcases the work of traditional Samoan tattoo masters alongside that of younger practitioners working within and influenced by the tradition today.
The opening day of the exhibition will include live tattoo demonstrations by several of the featured artists, lectures by exhibition curator Takahiro “Ryudaibori” Kitamura and others involved in organizing Tatau, and signings of the full-color catalog that accompanies the exhibition. All opening day activities will be included in museum admission, though space for some is limited.
An indigenous art form with a continuous history that dates back 2,000 years, tatau has played a pivotal role in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture, surviving many attempts at eradication.
In Samoa, tufuga tā tatau (master tattoo artists) are accorded high status in society, and acquiring tatau is considered a powerful affirmation of national identity, particularly for young men, for whom it is an important rite of passage. Tatau motifs and symbols are also being adapted by younger artists for new media and art forms. Both the traditional tattoo and its more contemporary manifestations have helped to create and affirm identity for new generations of Polynesians and others living outside of Samoa.
Photographs taken in New Zealand, Hawai‘i, California, and Nevada demonstrate the spread of the art form outside of Samoa and some of its newer interpretations. Among the artists featured in Tatau are Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo, Su‘a Sulu‘ape Peter, Su‘a Sulu‘ape Paul Jr., Su‘a Sulu‘ape Aisea Toetu‘u, Sulu‘ape Steve Looney, Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi, Mike Fatutoa, and Sulu‘ape Si‘i Liufau.
The exhibit will run from July 30, 2016, to January 8, 2017. Here’s the museums location:
JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM
100 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90012