Ancient Hawaiian Tattoo

The traditions of tattoos hold lots of importance in the Hawaiian culture. Tattoos have been practiced in Hawaiian culture for many years. Tattoos are done as a form of merriment. An individual expresses his gratitude and proves his membership in the tribe by getting a tattoo done.
The tools that the Hawaiians use for tattooing were borrowed from nature. They don’t use tattoo machines that are used nowadays. The tools that were used for tattooing are – bird beaks, claws and large fish bones. Hawaiian tattoos mainly had geometric and symmetrical designs. But, they slowly started using pictorial forms like images of animals.

Meaning of Hawaiian Tattoos

Tattoos play a very important role in the traditional Hawaiian culture. To understand the importance of tattoos, it is useful to look at the etymological roots of the word ‘tattoo’. In the Hawaiian language tattoo is referred to as “Uhi’, which means a covering. This shows the importance it has in their society, particularly in terms of defining hierarchy. The symbolic importance of tattoos was it revealed the level of privilege. The amount and complexity of tattoo designs defined one’ class.
Tattoos have many meanings, and have been exhibited on different parts of the body. In some of the lithographs, Hawaiian women wore designs concentrating mainly on their hands, feet, fingers and calves. Facial tattooing was also common in Hawaii. It was mostly found on the brow ridge, cheek, cheek bone and chin.

Tattoos as a sign of class

Hawaiians view tattoos on a man’ body as a sign of class and importance. Complicated tattoos were done by the highly skilled artists. The chiefs and their families got the tattoos done by the artist while the rest and the women got it done by the apprentices. The tattoos of women were less extensive and were limited to the hand, arms, feet, ears and lips.

Hawaiian tattoos different from others

Most of the Hawaiian tattoo designs have a hidden meaning, which is usually deeper and personal. This sets them apart from their Pacific Island neighbors. Hawaiian tattoo designs are bolder and bigger than Maori or Samoan forms. This is due to the fact that Hawaiian tattoos have more to do with individual identification than for ceremonial reasons.

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