Sāmoan (Salea’aumua & Safune) Tatau Artist
Postcards Unlocked #26
I never really set out to be a tatau artist, but here I am. Tatau has provided a way for me to bring together my passion for art, culture and community. I’ve been tattooing with machine for 11 years now, specialising in Sāmoan and Pasifika tatau – and the journey is only really beginning, although it is on pause for a bit while we navigate these uncertain times.
I predominantly work freehand, drawing on the skin as we talk about the intention behind the piece. Each tatau is custom designed to represent culture, heritage, family, milestones and so on. It’s about talanoa and allowing what’s inside to come to the surface. Due to our interconnectedness as tagata o le moana it’s been necessary for me to have an understanding of patterns from around the Pacific.
My background in Pacific art history and the connections I’ve made with other cultural practitioners informs a lot of the contemporary work I do.
I see my practice as being driven by the community and it was friends, family and people who receive tatau from me that have encouraged me towards learning customary Sāmoan tatau. I’m currently in an apprenticeship with Su’a Sulu’ape Alaiva’a Petelo and have been working with the ‘au for over a year now. It’s new ground and it can be a daunting space to operate in as a woman but I’m driven by, and grateful to, my many supporters – it takes a village!
Tatau is one of our oldest measina and yet it is often under-represented in art forums, so I thank Tautai for their inclusivity and support of my practice. I look forward to making connections with other Pasifika artists through these digital postcards and I’m keen to collaborate so get in touch! Since tatau is reliant on close contact with other people I’m really missing doing what I love – but I’m also looking forward to what the future holds.
Stay safe everyone, alofa atu.