The art of tattoo making goes back to 16th century, and was first introduced by the Tahitian people. They called it tatau, and as this artwork spread across the world, it popularly came to be known as tattooing. In Polynesian society, tattoos were an important part of their culture. The tattoo designs not only beautified the body but also served as a symbol of rank and status. It marked a person’s ability to endure pain and signified his strength. Chiefs and warriors of the Polynesian communities had more elaborate tattoo artwork on their bodies to emphasize their status. Tattooing was not just for men but women participated in the ritual as well. When a woman was tattooed, it often meant that she had reached the age of adolescence.
The common tools used for tattooing in those times were a comb which 4 to 20 needles and a carved instrument normally made from the shell or bone and teeth of a shark. The comb was pressed into the skin and hammered with a wooden stick, thus causing the color pigment to seep into the skin. The tools were especially made each time a person had to be tattooed. It took more than one person to make the tattoo design on the other person’s body.
The tattoo designs carried a symbolic meaning, and the patterns normally consisted of four elements – earth, fire, wind and ocean. A sacred ceremony was carried out when a person had to get his first tattoo normally at the age of maturity. Certain families had their own symbols designed to be tattooed on their bodies, and the same tattoo by carried by their next generations. Warriors normally had different tattoos from seamen to glorify their honor and bravery. Each symbol had its own meaning like turtle indicated fertility, dolphin meant wisdom and the Tiki symbol was used for protection. The Tiki was the most important symbol because Polynesian people thought that Tiki was the first human. They carved statues of Tiki and worshipped him like a God.
Tattoo design decor
As the art of tattoo making became popular, people incorporated the designs in other settings like interior decorations, café decors and Tiki themed rooms. Many stores began to supply items for Tiki themed rooms like hula dancing dolls, printed surfboards and floral wall prints.
The theme became more popular for summer huts and dance parties. Ukulele music also became an important part of the Tiki theme to create the imagery of tropical islands, palm trees and summer surfing. Poster frames and wall hangings became popular in every Tiki hut and bar. Advertisers took advantage of this growing trend and introduced other items like customized Tiki mugs, bamboo shelves and tabletops. Tiki masks hanging on the wall were also an important element of a Tiki-styled room. Today, the Tiki-themed artwork is a huge market, and is being exploited at commercial level. Hotels and resorts have special suites designed with Tiki art to attract guests and tourists during the holiday season, and a complementary tattoo if they really want to experience the ancient Polynesian culture.