Tatau: What One Must Do

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Tatau: What One Must Do

  • 1997 ----- color ----- 27 min ----- vhs
  • Examines the ancient art of Samoan tattooing (tatau), its traditional place in Samoan culture, and its current renaissance, both in Samoa and in the large Samoan community in Los Angeles. Samoans are the only Polynesians who never abandoned their tattooing traditions and ceremonies, despite their proscription by Christian missionaries in the islands. To the Samoans the custom --its symbols, its legends, its traditional instruments, and its role as a male rite of passage -- lay at the heart of their culture and represented a civilizing process through which a man gained the virtues and values of his society. Focuses on the story of a young Samoan who lives in Los Angeles. Against the wishes of his Christian father, he decides to receive the tatau and travels to Samoa to undergo the ritual, a process through which he hopes to come to terms with his cultural identity. In Samoa, he places himself in the hands of renowned tattoo master Su'a Suluape Ala'iva'a for the painful 12-day ordeal that will leave him covered from knees to waist in the dense, intricate matrix of ancient symbols. The tattoo master then travels to southern California, where many Samoans eagerly await their turn to undergo this ancient tradition that will strengthen their ties to their culture.
  • Topics: (American Ethnic Studies, Anthropology: Cultural, Art: Tribal, Austronesia)