A comprehensive guide to the artwork and meanings of traditional and modern Polynesian tattoo. Illustrations, photographs and diagrams.
As a 6th generation Polynesian and practicing tattoo artist, I have come to realize that the culture specific tattoo of Polynesia is in danger of becoming homogenized, and fear that the traditional symbols and their respective meanings will become lost to us. Currently, many tattoo artists throughout Polynesia have begun to compose tattoos that blend the 5 major genres of Polynesian tattoo, into one, and refer to that style simply as, 'Polynesian'.
I am all for progress, don't get me wrong, but I also believe that it is important for us to remember our past, especially the art created by our ancestors. Knowledge of traditions has been passed down orally, generation to generation. Therefore, the information about the symbols and meanings of traditional Polynesian tattoo is scant and hard to acquire. What is out there, as far as reference material, is for the most part difficult to obtain, incomplete or incorrect. In fact, a majority of the books on the subject of Polynesian tattoo were not even written by Polynesians!
I have been conducting my own intensive research over the past 18 months, and have amassed over 100 pages in notes alone. I have acquired rare books and materials pertaining to Polynesian tattoo, and continue to do research for this book, daily. I have published several of my theories on the subject, as well as examples and explanations of the respective meanings, on my blog: rolandpacheco.wordpress.com
The final step in creating this book would be to visit Tahiti and Marquesas. The most elaborate and documented Polynesian tattoo art was created in the Marquesas. Some have argued that the Marquesans elevated the practice of tattoo, to such a degree as to make it a fundamental part of their lives. Others have said that Polynesian tattoo may have originated there and spread northward and westward across the Pacific. Whichever the case may be, the fact that the Marquesan culture had an enormous impact on the rest of Polynesia is undeniable.
I believe that by visiting these two places, to not only obtain the knowledge of how current Polynesians are applying the traditional motifs, but to also glean from them the knowledge passed down by their ancestors, will ensure that my research is accurate. I have left New Zealand (Maori) and Samoa off of my destination list because I feel that I have access to enough information, here in Hawaii. However, if funding exceeds our expectations, we will fit one, if not both destinations onto our itinerary.
It is important to me that we not lose touch with our past as we move into the future. Tattoo art is a very important part of my culture and I want to preserve the purity and essence of the art from before it becomes further convoluted over time.
The finished product will be a soft cover, full color (matte), 8.5 x 11, coffee table style book complete with photographs, illustrations and diagrams. It will be self-published and sold through Amazon.com and affiliated online book sellers.
If everything goes as planned and we are able to travel during October or November of 2012, I anticipate the book being finished as early as February or March of 2013. I will be writing and illustrating while we are traveling so the turn around time will be as short as possible.
I would also like to emphasize that although Marquesan tattoo is some of the most documented of Polynesian tattoo as far as photography, illustration and descriptive writing is concerned, that by no means does this shed conclusive light on much of the usages and meanings of the symbols utilized. Much of the documentation occurred during the later part of the 1800's and early 1900's and was performed by European explorers that viewed much of what they saw through a westernized perspective.
I would like to apologize for my shaky video. I shot it myself, with my iPhone, arm extended, so there is some movement. It does get better! Also, I didn't realize that I blinked so much. I'm pretty sure that I'm not that way in person! Finally, I filmed this in two sections, about one week apart. The last half I recorded after a long day of tattooing and that is why I look tired. :)
In closing, I would also like to mention that I am still developing the cover art and layout of the book and that the cover seen here is not what the final product will appear. I have an example of a possible page layout on my blog. My wife, Anna, who is a professional photographer will accompany me on this endeavor and will be producing all of the photographic content. She will also be providing the video that I will be uploading to my blog. I intend to keep those involved in this project, abreast of the progress with regular blog and social media updates.
Now, it's in your hands!
Aloha and Thank you for your time!
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
pledged of $16,000 goal
seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful This project reached the deadline without achieving its funding goal on September 2, 2012.
Aug 3, 2012 - Sep 2, 2012 (30 days)
Pledge $30 or more
printed 'thank you' of donor name in bookEstimated delivery: Apr 2013
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printed 'thank you' of donor name in book, signed copy of original Polynesian tattoo art (approximately 8.5 x 11, 3 choices)Estimated delivery: Apr 2013
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printed 'thank you' of donor name in book, copy of bookEstimated delivery: Apr 2013
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printed 'thank you' of donor name in book, signed copy and signed personal 'thank you' in bookEstimated delivery: Apr 2013
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printed 'thank you' of donor name in book, signed copy and signed personal 'thank you' in book, signed copy of original Polynesian tattoo flash (approximately 8.5 x 11, 3 choices)Estimated delivery: Apr 2013
Pledge $500 or more
printed 'thank you' of donor name in book, signed copy and signed personal 'thank you' in book, original, personalized Polynesian tattoo flash created specifically for the individualEstimated delivery: Apr 2013