My Tatau: Sadat Muaiava shares what his tatau (Sāmoan tattoo) means to him

My Tatau: Sadat Muaiava shares what his tatau (Sāmoan tattoo) means to him


What does my tatau mean to me? It means tautua, which translates
to service in English. Tautua to my family,
tautua to my parents, tautua to my church,
tautua to my villages that I visit every year. Tautua to my people and when I say people,
I’m talking about my workplace. So I see my work
as a form of tautua where I use the pe‘a [male tattoo]
to symbolise that. But the tatau is also
a form of identity marker. When I use it as an orator
it brings mana [prestige] to the words that I speak because the tatau in a sense
is an ancient language. It is obviously on my body
but when I’m performing Sāmoan oratory it provides that connection to the past. I’ve always wanted to be tattooed. I wanted to continue the genealogy
of the tatau in our own family, so that connection,
both family and village, developing this really, really deep connection
with fa’asāmoa [the Sāmoan way]. I got the tatau over four days
– in total 24 hours – of tattooing time. It was sore.
It was really sore. But I do remember one day
it was raining and that was probably the sorest
because … And I asked Dad, and
I asked the tufuga [tattooist] as well, ‘Why was it so sore that day?’ And he said when it rains, apparently
the sausau [tattooing mallet] gets heavier. And I remember it was on my right side and apparently this is
my Dad’s family’s side so that’s when I felt it. I could also feel –
because I have this really deep connection with family at home as well,
back in Sāmoa, my grandparents and even my ancestors
who have passed away, so though they weren’t physically there
they were, spiritually, I could feel them. The meaning of the tatau
has not changed for me over time. If anything, it’s grown even deeper
compared to when I got it. And I think that just comes down to the tatau being there
when I practise the Sāmoan culture. The tatau is important because it is an ancient form
of the Sāmoan language. It is therefore important
for us Sāmoans to keep it alive, for our offspring not just in Sāmoa
but also here in New Zealand – thank you.

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