Got up to the Bishop Museum this week, to their excellent and recently refurbished Polynesian and Hawaiian galleries.
Both featured an extensive collection of material, nicely-displayed and with very good and signing and interpretation. In one of the cases was a small group of tattooing implements from Samoa. Far too dark to take photographs, but here are a few sketches from the case.
My apprenticeship at Fineline Tattoos begins properly in a fortnight’s time, so tattooing is much on my mind at the moment! There were some fascinating examples of tattoos from the Marquesas Islands in the Bishop Museum, and from Indonesia in the Honolulu Academy of Art. It got me thinking a bit about traditional tattoos on Palau.
A few comments came in to a post of mine here several months ago, saying how “traditional” tattoos seem to have vanished from Palau. One person remembered their grandparents with tattoos, and sent a link to some Japanese anthropological drawings from the ?1920s up on the web. I’d be interested in knowing if anyone else remembers “traditional” tattoos from Palau, and if anyone knows of more photographs or drawings of old Palauan tattoos.
Is it possible – or ethical – to revive such a traditional art? How does one find new meaning for an artform whose social and cultural context is now “lost”? How does such an artform adapt to find new, contemporary meanings and contexts? Is there an example in the revivals of other Polynesian tattooing traditions – Maori, Hawaiian, etc.? Or is there a precedent closer to home in the approach taken by Hisakatsu Hijikata and the evolution of the Palauan Storyboards?