55 Inspiring Samoan Tattoo Ideas – Showing Off the Style

It is believed that Samoan tattoo designs have been in existence for the last 2000 years, originating in the lands of Polynesia. The legacy of tattooing in the Samoan culture is as diverse as the people themselves and where one is widespread across the Polynesian societies scattered throughout the Pacific Ocean.

Although the arrival of the missionaries in the 19th century forced this unique art to go into a decline but the art never quite entirely faded away. Now, people outside of the Samoan cultural tradition get themselves into with these designs as a fashion trend.


History of Tattoo Designs

Many Polynesian artists maintained the link with their culture and history by sporting and preserving unique tattoos generation after generation. The practice of applying tattoo may have evolved over the years but not their tradition of practicing this unique craft.

In Samoa, the art of applying tattoo or tatau’ is often passed on from father to son, with the son serving as his father’s apprentice for many years.

A young artist who is in training spends many hours and many days, tapping designs into barkcloth or sand using a special comb. As per the tradition, the Samoan tattoo artists make the comb from a sharpened boar’s teeth combined with a particular portion of a turtle shell and to a handle made of wood.

According to a myth belonging to the Samoan tribe, it is said that the art of tattooing was first brought to them by two women named Tilafaiga and Teama. Not much is known about these women or the rank the held in the tribal, but always known that this practice flourished and quickly became a part of their tradition and culture.

In Samoan tribes, both women and men can get tattoos that may either depict symbolism of something they hold dear or symbols representing iconic figures of the rich Samoan culture.

back to menu ↑

Types of Tattoos

So what exactly is it that makes Samoan tattoo designs so attractive to even the most modern enthusiast? Well, we cannot rule out the impact of Hollywood and other media in their role of influencing the public opinion, but it is still quite safe to say that the available options of tattoo designs are huge.

There are so many striking varieties of designs available that you’ll be left to stand just by looking at them. Each and every pattern is exquisitely elaborate and beautiful beyond any comprehension. Another feature of someone tattoos is that they generally tend to cover a large portion of one’s body.

The tattoos can run across the entire back and down towards the knee and also around their arms. Of course, everything being said, the extent of tattoo and the designs depends on a person’s choice and taste.

back to menu ↑

Tattoo Design Ideas

If you’re planning to get Samoan tattoos for men, take a look at the following types and their meaning:

Tiki: This is a humanlike figure that often represents Polynesian semi-gods, meaning deified heads and ancestors, who have been sublimed after death. The mainly symbolize the role of the protective guardian who seeks to keep the later generations safe.

Tiki is a common tattoo design that you may have seen in many pop culture references to TV shows, movies, and games. Their role in the Polynesian culture is very important, and the organs of the Tiki are often drawn separately to portray different meanings.

Marquesan Cross: this is another traditional symbol that is widely used in Polynesian tattoo designs. They mainly denote the balance between different elements and harmony. While the origin of the Marquesan Cross is still unknown, archaeological study shows that it is somehow connected to a turtle shell.

Shells: In Samoan that are designs, shells play a very common and important part to portray a variety of meanings. The turtle shell is symbolisation of the animal itself and can often symbolize things like wellness, longevity, peace, and fertility. Apart from turtle shells, you’ll also find many different varieties of tattoos revolving around seashells.

The Sun: Like many other Samoan tattoos, the Sun can also represent many different meanings. But as far as the culture is concerned, it stands for brilliance, riches, leadership, and grandness. The sun is rising is related to rebirth, but the setting of the sun does not symbolize death, but a passageway to the world beyond death.

back to menu ↑

Techniques of Tattooing

The traditional technique of tattooing is a long and painful process that takes a toll on both the artist and the subject. The tattoo master begins by dipping his cutting tools into a sort of black ink made from the soot of burnt candle actions and then goes on to puncture designs into the upper layers of the skin.

The cutting tool consists of a short piece of either bamboo or any light wood with a piece of tortoiseshell bound at one end in right angles. A little more comb is dangled to the lower wide end of this tortoise shell. The larger the size of the comb, the more is the skin surface covered.

The master makes use of a small mallet to tap the shorthanded instrument repeatedly to transfer the ink of Samoan tattoo to the skin.

The process may take even weeks to complete with short periods of recuperation in between. The Samoan meaning for tattoo or tatau is “correct or workmanlike, ” and the entire process of tattooing reflects the sentiment.

Tattoos in the Samoan culture are not just about showing off style; history says that the kind of tattoo a person has depicts their status in their society. Generally, the more elaborate and larger design of a tattoo, the higher is the status of the person who sports it. As it would seem, men always have bigger tattoos than their female counterparts.

Also, the art of tattooing became almost mandatory among males belonging to this ethnic group.

It is said that as soon as the body of a boy is assumed to have stopped growing (meaning: the boy has reached adulthood), the ceremony of tattooing would begin. However, as history suggests, this practice turned into a privilege later on as it became secluded to the royalty families.

Login/Register access is temporary disabled