Tatau is the Samoan word for tattoo. Early English explorers mispronounced it to come up with the more popular word for permanently marking the skin with ink, “tattoo”
The method of application has varied widely over the centuries. Basically a cut is made in the skin with some type of sharp instrument and ink is rubbed in to embed the pigment into the skin.
Many forms of Tatau are quite painful and in fact the extreme discomfort is considered part of the ritual. One look at some of the instruments shown on this page will confirm this in a very graphic way.
The type of application practiced by Tikiroa employs the use of a series of bamboo sticks with varying numbers of sterile needles affixed to the end, depending on the ink saturation desired. This version of Tatau is the least painful and is actually involves less discomfort, bleeding and trauma to the skin than with an electric tattoo gun. The healing process can be accomplished much quicker and in a natural way.
Tatau is tailor made for Polynesian style line tattoos due to the ability of the artist to apply the ink in a very accurate way. It should be noted that traditional bamboo tattooing is very effective for creating incredible color tattoos as well. Tikiroa is quite familiar with the best equipment and inks to achieve impressive results with color.
Be forewarned; once you try Tatau or the traditional bamboo process, you may never be able to go back to an electric tattoo gun again. Many people find it superior in every way.
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