Belles of the South Seas 1944
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Certain motifs were thought to protect man from the loss of his mana.
Tattooing also went far beyond the life of this world. The different Tahitian populations each developed their own specific designs and particular motifs. On the other hand, in the Leeward Islands, the face was never tattooed. Unfortunately, much of the meaning of the motifs and designs has been lost over time.
The tools of traditional Polynesian tattooing comprised a small serrated comb, made of bone, tortoiseshell or mother-of-pearl, fixed to a wooden handle.
The teeth were placed on the skin while the tattooist struck the handle with another piece of wood, causing the skin to break and the ink to penetrate. With these traditional tools, producing a tattoo could be extremely painful and took days, weeks, months or even years.
This reinforced the role of the Tahiti tattoo as a rite of passage.
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This status was often passed down from father to son. As soon as they settled permanently in the Polynesian Islands at the end of the eighteenth century, both Catholic and Protestant missionaries fought against the practice of tattooing.
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Consequently, the great majority of motifs as well as the technique itself of tattooing were lost forever. Of course, its sacred nature and role as a social marker, fundamental to traditional society, were considerably dimmed.
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Tattooing for the people of Tahiti became the bearer of a determined reclaiming of the Polynesian identity, to which was obviously added an aesthetic dimension.
Now, many young Polynesians get themselves tattooed.
Having explored and researched to try to rediscover the original meaning of the motifs - a meaning which has been completely lost for many of them - the Polynesian tattooists are now developing their art in three main directions: the reproduction of traditional Tahitian tattoo motifs, the creation of strictly decorative motifs such as dolphins or manta rays and some have created motifs which are completely new, yet directly inspired from Tahiti tradition.
Tattooists are now at work in nearly all the main inhabited islands of French Polynesia. Their reputation and the beauty of the Polynesian tatau are such that they attract visitors from elsewhere. Some Polynesian tattooists practice their art in many major cities of the world such as Paris, London or New York.
Tahiti nude life
Polynesian tattooing has gained an international reputation both because of its traditional roots and its very fashionable ethnic aesthetic. When the missionaries came to Tahiti, they tried to suppress the powerful, life-affirming and sensual sounds and movements that embody Polynesian music and Tahitian dance.
In the dance and rhythms, Tahitians give voice to their Mana, allowing it to rise from the sea, descend from the hills, and emanate from the soul of every Polynesian man and woman who falls under its mesmerizing spell.
In ancient times, Tahitian dances were linked with all cts of life.
One would dance to welcome a visitor, to pray, to challenge an enemy or to seduce a mate. The stringed instruments consist of the ukulele and the guitar. Other instruments that had long disappeared from Tahiti culture have progressively made a come-back, those such as the iharaa split bamboo drum and the vivoa nasal flute.
Finally, all sorts of sounds are obtained by clacking stones, from shells, by using penu pinion or coconuts. Other chants were secular and accompanied the events of everyday life.
There are sound reminiscences of collective activities such as beating tapa bark cloth. In the Marquesas Islands, the chants in religious ceremonies were often only understood by the priests, and were accompanied by drums and handclaps.
During the festivals of Tahitian tradition, the chants progressively accompanied the beat initiated by the pahu drums. The rupture with the Polynesian cultural past is most profound in the domain of music.
The European influence started with sailors and their profane songs and music. It continued with the missionaries who brought their canticles and hymns. The himene is a cross between the religious hymns imported by the first Protestant missionaries and polyphonic Tahitian chants that were sung before the arrival of Europeans. The first two are rooted in English Protestant liturgy and in the pre-European period. Both types of musical expression generally praise a legendary god, a famous chief or protective animals.
TAHITI LIFE - PARADISE ISLAND
These songs use very poetic lyrics. Each island and district has its specific interpretations. Ellis,but little else is known about them. All we know is that both Polynesian men and women danced, together or separately.
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Certain dances were performed standing up, others sitting down. Musicians used to accompany the dances with a limited number of instruments, essentially the pahu drum with two skins the vivoa nasal flute. Associated, as was tattooing, with nudity and therefore with immodesty, dancing was forbidden by missionaries.
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