Hawaii Tattoo History

Long before our award winning Hawaii Custom Tattoos shop came to ply our trade in the Hawaiian Islands, tattoos in Hawaii were being done for generations in Polynesian.

The word tattoo itself, finds origins in the the word ‘tatau.’  This is not a Hawaiian word since the the Letter ‘T’ is not found in the Hawaiian Alphabet and finds its origins in Tahiti, Tonga, and Samoa. When the Hawaiian culture began to form, the Polynesians who populated the islands and shared heritage and customs with the other Polynesian islands, dubbed the word as ‘Kakau.’

Authentic Hawaiian tattoos were a rich part of the culture and embodied deeper spiritual and cultural meaning.  When the Europeans arrived in the 1800’s, along with them came new customs and new cultural practices.  As a result, the deep history and meaning of tattoos were lost to the masses and went underground, like many other indigenous practices all over the world when the Euro-influences took hold.

Today Hawaiian cultural practitioners of all things Hawaiian, including traditional Hawaiian tattooing, forms of healing (la’au lapa’au), chanting (oli), hula, and more are enjoying a period of revitalization from their hard work to develop and share cultural based learning models and movements.

Check out this video of the Polynesian tattoo tradition to see what it looks like:

As the World continues its march towards globalization, it is important to continue to honor where we have come from and not forget all of the customs and traditions that got us here.  For meaningful tattoos in Hawaii, come on down to our Waikiki Tattoo parlor, led by Tattoo Adam and his over two decades of experience in custom tattooing.  He has been in Hawaii for almost 2/3 of that time and has a great appreciation and understanding for Hawaiian tattooing, its meaning, and the history.

We are open daily from 10a – 10p.  Consultations are free and scheduling an appointment is recommended.  Walk-ins are also welcome, we just don’t want to keep you waiting because it can get busy!

Hope to see you soon!

The 411 about 434:

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

434 Ena Road
Honolulu, Hawaii

mailto: adamsiehr@gmail.com

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