The modern word tattoo is generally considered as derived from the Samoan word for body art – tatau. It’s no wonder then that Samoan tattoo designs are popular even among the celebrities like Ele Opeloge, a Samoan Olympic weightlifter with traditional designs on his legs, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a professional wrestler turned Hollywood actor, with Samoan ink on his chest and shoulder.
Divided by Gender
If you want to have your skin inked with Samoan tattoos, we recommend researching first on the types applicable to your gender. Keep in mind that Samoan tattooing is not an extinct art being revived by celebrities and other ink lovers. It is a living tradition still practiced the old-fashioned way in the Samoan group of islands, a tradition that demands respect for its long history, its symbolisms and its considerable pain.
Anyway, Samoan tattoo designs are divided into two – for men and for women. Both involve great attention to detail with the main differences being that men’s tattoos are accompanied by elaborate rituals while women’s inks are not so. Both types also mean honor to the families of the person being tattooed on such that if one refuses to get inked, he/she might as well be renounced by the his/her family for the shame brought upon the other members.
For the men, the tattoos were known as pe’a. These looked like high-waist leg lace stockings stretching from the mid-torso all the way down to the below the knees. Every single inch of skin is inked such that you will see Samoan men with tattoos in their ultra-sensitive anal and genital regions – that is, if they allow you to see the ink.
Is it painful? Yes, extremely so but that’s what men love about Samoan tattoo designs – it allows them to show their manhood because they have survived extreme pain.
The women’s tattoos were known as malu, which were more delicate in design than those found in the men but no less painful because the same tattooing techniques and tools were used. Women had tattoos from the upper thighs to below the knee as well as on the arms.
And yes, even the women had to complete their tattoos even at the risk of severe infection and death. Otherwise, the risk of being labeled a coward was waiting in their future, which was not a bright one considering the hierarchical nature of Samoan society.
Fortunately, you can choose from among many Samoan tattoo designs without the societal pressures. The thing is that, with the extensive area covered by a Samoan tattoo, you will also spend days on the tattooist’s chair to finish the design. In traditional Samoan inking, 5 sessions with a one-day gap is necessary to finish the entire area with up to a year of healing period.
Today, you may have a lesser amount of time spent recovering as well as a lesser risk of infection. But the element of considerable pain still remains. Is it any wonder that the people who go for Samoan tattoos have big bodies like The Rock?
But if the Samoan tattoo designs still appeal to your sense of history, of symbolism and of aesthetic, then by all means have your favorite tattoo artist start on one of these inks now.