Tatau

Past Exhibition

Tatau

Takahiro “Ryudaibori” Kitamura

Exhibition Curator

Born in Japan and raised in California, Takahiro Kitamura has been a tattoo artist since 1998. He practiced tattooing under the artist name “Horitaka” until 2014, after which he took the name “Ryudaibori.” Since 2002, he has been the owner and operator of State of Grace Tattoo in San Jose, California, and since 2004, he has been the co-founder and co-host of the Bay Area Convention of the Tattoo Arts. Kitamura is the author of the books Bushido: Legacies of the Japanese Tattoo(2000); Tattoos of the Floating World: Ukiyo-e Motifs in the Japanese Tattoo (2003); Tattooing from Japan to the West: Horitaka Interviews Contemporary Artists (2004); We Are Tattoo (2008); and I Love Tattoos (2012). He has also published more than a dozen books on tattoo culture. Kitamura has spoken at UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and at conferences in Hawai‘i and Italy. In 2014, Kitamura curated the exhibition Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World for the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

 

John Agcaoili

Exhibition Photographer and Documentary Film Director

John Agcaoili is a freelance photographer and the co-founder of Darkside of the Moon, a production company based in California’s Silicon Valley. He served as Director of Photography on the award-winning short film Reproach. Agcaoili received a degree in media arts and animation from The Art Institute of California—San Francisco in 2010. He has lectured on cinematography and lighting at Adobe Systems. His signature photography style is clean, artful, and classic. Throughout the years, he has found inspiration in collaborating with some of the most influential artists of his generation.

 

Sean Mallon

Consulting Scholar

Sean Mallon is of Samoan and Irish descent and is Senior Curator of Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. He is the author or lead editor of five books including Tatau: Samoan Tattoo, New Zealand Art, Global Culture (2010) and Tangata o le Moana: The Story of New Zealand and the People of the Pacific (2012). He was also a co-author of Art in Oceania: A New History (2012). His exhibitions include Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth (2009); Tangata o le Moana (2007); and Voyagers: Discovering the Pacific and Tatau/Tattoo (2002). He has been a council member of The Journal of the Polynesian Society since 2008.

 

Mike Fatutoa

Artist

Mike Fatutoa was born in 1978 in Eastern Samoa on the island of Tutuila to Lopati and Tina Fatutoa. He grew up in the village of Fagaotogo and then moved to Kalihi, Hawai‘i, in 1987. Fatutoa graduated from Farrington High School in 1996 and followed that with a few semesters of graphic arts classes at a local community college. He moved to Las Vegas in 1997 and apprenticed at On The Wild Side Tattoo under Jerry Kannenberg and Mojo. In 2003, Fatutoa opened Sacred Center Tattoo in Las Vegas. He received his pe‘a from Supu Pasina in Samoa. He currently lives and works in Tampa, Florida, with his wife and children.

 

Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo

Artist

Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiv‘a Petelo is the head of the Su‘a Sulu‘ape family. In 1976 he graduated from Teacher’s Technical College in Apia, Samoa, and began his career as an educator, eventually becoming a principal at Chanell College. In 1977 he was given the blessing by his father to head the family. Due to the untimely death of his brother Paulo in 1999, he retired from education and became a full time tattooist. In 1985 he was the first Samoan tufuga tā tatau to be invited to an international tattoo convention. This landmark event was held in Rome and his invitation came directly from prestigious Western tattooists Don Ed Hardy and Henk “Hanky Panky” Schiffmacher.

 

Su‘a Sulu‘ape Peter

Artist

The eldest son of Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo, Su‘a Sulu‘ape Peter grew up around tatau. He began stretching clients’ skin for his father at the age of nine. After moving to New Zealand for schooling, he called his father for a quick briefing on tatau and completed his first tatau at the age of 19.

 

Su‘a Sulu‘ape Paul Jr.

Artist

Su‘a Sulu‘ape Paul Jr. is the second son of Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo. He began tattooing by machine in 2005. He was encouraged to start tattooing with the traditional tools in 2007 by his father. In 2009, he completed his first traditional tataus.

 

Su‘a Sulu‘ape Aisea Toetu‘u

Artist

Su‘a Sulu‘ape Aisea Toetu‘u is of Tongan and Filipino descent and lives in Hawai‘i. Since 2007, he has been the owner and operator of the world-renowned Soul Signature Tattoo in Honolulu. He received his tatau from Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo and was also given the Sulu‘ape title as a tufuga, which gave him the right to use the family tools. It was then that Toetu‘u started tattooing using the traditional tapping method. After completing several tataus and malus, he was given another title, Su‘a, from tufuga Su‘a Sulu‘ape Petelo. Toetu‘u teaches art courses in Hawai‘i, frequently organizes art shows, and is a leading figure in the Polynesian tattoo and cultural revival.

 

Sulu‘ape Steve Looney

Artist

Sulu‘ape Steve Looney was born Tiafau Steve Looney in 1973. He is of Samoan, Sicilian, and Irish descent. He began tattooing in 1991 and graduated from Tafuna High School in American Samoa a year later. He credits one of his high school art teachers, To‘afa Iosua, for guidance and for introducing him to Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo, who taught him about the traditional art of Samoan tattooing. In 2004, Looney completed his apprenticeship and received the Sulu‘ape chief title from Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo; the title recognizes him as one of the artists in the tattoo family and allows him to use the family’s traditional tools. In the same year, Looney received his own tatau from Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo. He has been featured in numerous books and articles as well as the Japanese American National Museum’s 2014 exhibition, Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World. In 2004, he opened his shop, Pacific Soul Tattoo, in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. He resides in Hawai‘i with his wife and two children.

 

Sulu‘ape Si‘i Liufau

Artist

Born in 1976 as Si‘isi‘ialafia Sidney Liufau, Liufau began tattooing in 2005. He has attended Santa Ana Community College and Fullerton Junior College. He credits Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a, Su‘a Sulu‘ape Lafaele, Sulu‘ape Steve Looney, and Robert Hill for teaching him how to tattoo. In 2008, Liufau founded A-Town Tattoo in Garden Grove, California. The shop continues to be a hub of Polynesian American culture and often hosts members of the Su‘a Sulu‘ape family. Liufau received his tataufrom Su‘a Sulu‘ape Lafaele in June 2009. On November 4, 2015, he was given the Sulu‘ape title by his mentor, Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo. Sulu‘ape Si‘i Liufau frequently exhibits at tattoo conventions and is one of very few artists who tattoo by both hand and machine.

 

Tuigamala Sāveatama Fugamaivasa Andy Seuati Tauafiafi

Artist

Born in 1977, Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi received a certificate in fashion and design from Wellington Polytechnic in 1997. He went on to receive a national diploma in visual arts from Whitireia Polytechnic in 2000, followed by a BFA from University of Auckland in 2003. He began tattooing in 2004. His first tattoo machines were given to him by Steve Ma Ching, whom he worked with for four years, learning the trade. Early inspiration came from friends such as Sulu‘ape Steve Looney, Samoan Mike, Sulu‘ape Toetu‘u Aisea, Bong, and Tattoo Rich. Tauafiafi received his tatau from Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2007. He took this journey with his brother and credits the experience with opening his eyes to traditional tatau and giving him a direction in which to proceed. He was featured in the 2003 exhibition Speaking Through Me at the Corban Wine Estate in Waitakere, Auckland, and the 2013 exhibition Sui Faiga Ae Tumau Fa‘avae (Past and Present) at the City Gallery in Wellington. He has been featured in the books The Polynesian Tattoo Today (2010) and New Zealand Tattoo: In the Home of the Tattooist’s Art (2012). He is the owner and operator of Taupou Tatau Studio, established in 2009. Tauafiafi also completed a one-month residency at Massey University College of Creative Arts in 2013.

 

Additional Artists

Bong 
Steve Ma Ching 
Lio Fa‘amasino 
Alipate Fetuli 
Fred Frost 
Allek Gaoay 
Seymour Kaniho 
Orly Locquiao 
Paulo Manabe 
Melissa Manuel 
Dennis Mata‘afa 
Pat Morrow 
Sef Samatua 
Sulu‘ape Riccy Boy 
Tattoo Rich 
Lopeti Toetu‘u 

July 30, 2016 - January 22, 2017

Japanese American National Museum

100 N. Central Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Tatau: Marks of Polynesia explores the beauty of Samoan tattoos as well as the key role they play in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture. Through photographs taken in the studio and on location in Samoa and elsewhere, Tatau showcases the work of traditional Samoan tattoo masters alongside that of younger practitioners working within and influenced by the tradition today. Through exhibitions like Tatau, JANM continues its work of promoting understanding of diverse cultures.

Samoa’s tatau, along with Japan’s irezumi, is one of the world’s most distinctive living tattoo traditions. An indigenous art form with a continuous history that dates back 2,000 years, tatau has played a pivotal role in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture, surviving many attempts at eradication. In Samoa, tufuga tā tatau (master tattoo artists) are accorded high status in society, and acquiring tatau is considered a powerful affirmation of national identity, particularly for young men, for whom it is an important rite of passage. Tatau motifs and symbols are also being adapted by younger artists for new media and art forms. Both the traditional tattoo and its more contemporary manifestations have helped to create and affirm identity for new generations of Polynesians and others living outside of Samoa. 

Among the artists featured in Tatau are Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo, Su‘a Sulu‘ape Peter, Su‘a Sulu‘ape Paul Jr., Su‘a Sulu‘ape Aisea Toetu‘u, Sulu‘ape Steve Looney, Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi, Mike Fatutoa, and Sulu‘ape Si‘i Liufau. An important focus of the exhibition is the influential Sulu‘ape family and their disciples; the legendary Petelo Sulu‘ape and his deceased brother Paulo are credited with spurring the resurgence of Samoan tattoos worldwide. Additional photographs taken in New Zealand, Hawai‘i, California, and Nevada demonstrate the spread of the art form outside of Samoa and some of its newer interpretations.

Tatau is curated by Takahiro “Ryudaibori” Kitamura, the master tattoo artist and author who previously curated the exhibition Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World, which originated at JANM in 2014 and is currently traveling. Kitamura is collaborating with John Agcaoili, photographer; Sulu‘ape Steve Looney and Danielle Steffany-Looney of Pacific Soul Tattoo in Hawai‘i; Sean Mallon, author and Senior Curator of Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; and Sulu‘ape Si‘i Liufau of A-Town Tattoo. Tatau is accompanied by a full-color catalog.

Tatau: Marks of Polynesia was on display at the Japanese American National Museum July 30, 2016–January 22, 2017. Below are sponsors of JANM’s presentation of the exhibition.

Major Sponsor:  General Graphics

Patron Sponsor: Su‘a Sulu‘ape Freewind

Associate Sponsor: ROXX 2Spirit Tattoo

Media Sponsor: The Rafu Shimpo 

 

Now Traveling!

Check the Venues page to see where the exhibition is traveling.

 

Interested in booking this exhibition?  LEARN MORE

July 30, 2016 - January 22, 2017

Japanese American National Museum

100 N. Central Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Tatau: Marks of Polynesia explores the beauty of Samoan tattoos as well as the key role they play in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture. Through photographs taken in the studio and on location in Samoa and elsewhere, Tatau showcases the work of traditional Samoan tattoo masters alongside that of younger practitioners working within and influenced by the tradition today. Through exhibitions like Tatau, JANM continues its work of promoting understanding of diverse cultures.

Samoa’s tatau, along with Japan’s irezumi, is one of the world’s most distinctive living tattoo traditions. An indigenous art form with a continuous history that dates back 2,000 years, tatau has played a pivotal role in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture, surviving many attempts at eradication. In Samoa, tufuga tā tatau (master tattoo artists) are accorded high status in society, and acquiring tatau is considered a powerful affirmation of national identity, particularly for young men, for whom it is an important rite of passage. Tatau motifs and symbols are also being adapted by younger artists for new media and art forms. Both the traditional tattoo and its more contemporary manifestations have helped to create and affirm identity for new generations of Polynesians and others living outside of Samoa. 

Among the artists featured in Tatau are Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo, Su‘a Sulu‘ape Peter, Su‘a Sulu‘ape Paul Jr., Su‘a Sulu‘ape Aisea Toetu‘u, Sulu‘ape Steve Looney, Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi, Mike Fatutoa, and Sulu‘ape Si‘i Liufau. An important focus of the exhibition is the influential Sulu‘ape family and their disciples; the legendary Petelo Sulu‘ape and his deceased brother Paulo are credited with spurring the resurgence of Samoan tattoos worldwide. Additional photographs taken in New Zealand, Hawai‘i, California, and Nevada demonstrate the spread of the art form outside of Samoa and some of its newer interpretations.

Tatau is curated by Takahiro “Ryudaibori” Kitamura, the master tattoo artist and author who previously curated the exhibition Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World, which originated at JANM in 2014 and is currently traveling. Kitamura is collaborating with John Agcaoili, photographer; Sulu‘ape Steve Looney and Danielle Steffany-Looney of Pacific Soul Tattoo in Hawai‘i; Sean Mallon, author and Senior Curator of Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; and Sulu‘ape Si‘i Liufau of A-Town Tattoo. Tatau is accompanied by a full-color catalog.

Tatau: Marks of Polynesia was on display at the Japanese American National Museum July 30, 2016–January 22, 2017. Below are sponsors of JANM’s presentation of the exhibition.

Major Sponsor:  General Graphics

Patron Sponsor: Su‘a Sulu‘ape Freewind

Associate Sponsor: ROXX 2Spirit Tattoo

Media Sponsor: The Rafu Shimpo 

 

Now Traveling!

Check the Venues page to see where the exhibition is traveling.

 

Interested in booking this exhibition?  LEARN MORE

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