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Tatau – Samoan Tattooing

Episode:87Te Papa Collection:Pacific Cultures

Suggested curriculum levels:4 – 6

Curriculum connections:English: Listening, Reading, and Viewing, The Arts: Understanding the Arts in Context, Social Sciences: Identity, Culture, and Organisation

Description:It's often a painful experience getting a tattoo; curator Sean Mallon explains why it is so important in Samoan culture.

Questions for students

  1. What are the main differences between traditional Samoan tatau and modern tattooing? Compare the tools and methods used. Why do you think Samoan people want to continue using the old methods?
  2. What were the purposes of tatau? Describe the forms and significance of commonly used tatau. How do they differ for men and women?
  3. Many cultures around the world use forms of skin decoration for specific purposes. Formulate two or three questions about this, then identify several sources of information that could help answer your questions. Use the 'Key questions' response template to record your questions, sources and notes. Prepare a presentation for your classmates using the results of your research.
  4. Pain is obviously involved in obtaining tatau, but is it more painful than modern methods? Why do you think tatau is becoming more popular?
  5. What does the presenter mean when he says people who get tatau 'are really making a commitment to the art form and the culture'? To what extent is tatau seen as an art form as well as a symbol of a culture?

Related templates:

Key questions