Hawaii Tattoo History

At 434 Tattoo, our Waikiki tattoo Shop, we like to share our love of tattoos in as many ways possible.  Part of that involves seeing where the art of tattooing originated from, learning more about tattoo culture ourselves, and sharing some of the background info about that.

The Hawaiian people and their Polynesian cousins (i.e. the Samoans, the Tongans) brought many of their traditional, cultural customs that included weapon-making, artwork, and tattooing to the Hawaiian Islands many years ago.

The term for their version of custom tattooing was kakau.  The purpose encompassed not only body modification, but served to recognize different members of the culture and their social station, and it also was for good luck and protection for health issues and spiritual well-being.

Check out what we found on PBS:

“Intricate patterns, mimicking woven reeds or other natural forms, graced men’s arms, legs, torso and face. Women were generally tattooed on the hand, fingers, wrists and sometimes on their tongue.

The designs were applied by specially trained kahuna, experts in one or more critical tasks, who applied pigment to the skin with a needle made from bone, tied to a stick and struck by a mallet. Traditional designs varied widely, according to available records, but many memorialized fallen chiefs, leaders or family members. The process was guarded with great secrecy and all implements were destroyed after use, according to the dictates of kapu.”

And here’s a post that we did earlier this year about Polynesian Face tattoos.  Pretty neat when you think about it because at the root, there are many similarities to the history of Asian Tattooing and other styles of tattoo art.

Until next blog…

Have a Happy New Year in Hawaii, wherever you are in the world! And be sure to stop by our Honolulu tattoo parlor for all your custom tattoo needs the next time you’re in Waikiki!

Adam Siehr, President and Proud Owner
434 Tattoo
Custom Tattooing LLC.

Directions:
434 Ena Road
Honolulu, Hawaii
96815

Contact:
mailto: adamsiehr@gmail.com
1-808-391-8287

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