The Art of the Tatau

Tatau grey scale arm tattoo

Good Vibrations Ink has the honor and pleasure of hosting Master Polynesian tattoo artist Kawika Au from February 25-27. Kawika hails from Kauai and is bringing the traditional Polynesian style of hand tapping tattoo, or should I say tatau, to Orlando. Our English word, tattoo derives its meaning from the Hawaiian word kakau which translates to: Ka – strike and Kau – place. In most simplistic terms the word kakau (Hawaiian language) can be translated to the word tatau (anglicized Hawaiian version), and finally tattoo which is what the West most commonly knows as the decoration of the skin with ink. The ancient Polynesians didn’t consider the tatau as ornamental but a spiritual journey created between the artist and the receiver of the tattoo. The artist creates his own tools, which in itself is a spiritual process. The piece that goes into the skin is usually comprised of albatross bone, turtle shell and ivory, and the ink that goes into the skin is traditionally the soot of the Kukui tree, although these days traditional tattoo ink is sometimes substituted. The bones come in all shapes and sizes and the artist has hand sharpened them to a precise shape and point for his tattoo designs.

Celebrating the Tradition of Tatau: The Polynesian Art of Tattooing

One of the main things that sets the Polynesian hand tapped tattoo apart from other tattoos actually has to do with the process prior to receiving the tattoo. Traditionally the artist will sit with the recipient of the tattoo and talk about their history, genealogy and their desires. By doing this, the artist will get a sense of who the recipient is and what their personality is like. Hence, the tattoo is a reflection of the past, the present and the future of those involved in the actual tattooing. The artist has a host of beautiful designs that have been passed down from the Native Hawaiians of long ago as well as the artist’s own unique heritage. Therefore, the tattoo is a blend of the unique meeting of the recipient and the artist and the outcome is the beautiful markings left behind during that meeting. It truly is a unique process.
Space is limited so if you want to snag a time for this beautiful artform on your skin – don’t hesitate! If you miss this opportunity you will have to fly all the way over to Hawaii … that may not be a bad thing…right??? See you there – ALOHA