Home Inspiration & Artwork Symbols & Designs ON INK AND EDGES: SAMOAN WARRIOR TATAU IN MMA


A senior curator at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa explains the cultural significance of Polynesian tattoos, and the implications they have on MMA fighters.

Samoan tattooing

Tattooing, Samoa by Thomas Andrew, circa 1890-1910, Samoa. (Collection of Museum of New Zealand)

In 1929, in an essay titled Ornament and Crime, Adolf Loss wrote that “People with tattoos not in prison are either latent criminals or degenerate aristocrats.” However, in the 21st century, and worldwide, it seems the once marginalized art of tattooing, has gained new respectability. It has moved from the edges of western societies to the center of attention, particularly in popular culture. Tattooed athletes in professional televised sports such as football, basketball and martial arts have also given tattooing visibility. The art and artists of tattooing are accessible to wider and more diverse audiences. Tattoos are a key part of people’s identities, their personal stories and lives. Some tattoos are decorative, others represent people’s cultural or family heritage. Through mass media they have become familiar images, but do we really understand what they mean? read the full story here