San Francisco’s hostess Lu’isa Ha’ungatau a.k.a “Isa Girl” takes us on a journey to a Tongan tattooing ceremony where she catches up with one of the most innovative and renowned tattoo artists in the South Pacific, ‘Aisea Toetu’u. She catches up with him at a traditional Tongan ceremony where Toetu’u leads the push to revive the tatatau tradition into modern day practice. Most Polynesian-Americans are proud of this particular part of their culture. He discusses the sacred origin of the Tongan tatatau with Luisa. Toetu’u explains that when Christianity was introduced to the small island Kingdom of Tonga, a lot of cultural practices were lost. Tattooing was one of them.
The Kingdom of Tonga is located 2,000 miles south of the state of Hawaii. It is governed by a constitutional monarchy and like every nation, it goes through its cycles of political reform, the latest of which has occurred in the last few years. Family and tribal culture are the foundation of “the Friendly Isles.” Tongans today have continued their migration heritage by moving beyond the Pacific to the Americas, Europe, and Asia. They take with them their traditions, history, language and influence and adapt to new cultures by infusing their own with the new. The mark of the Tongan tatatau is a prime example of Tongans upholding a cultural tradition. The symbolism behind the tatatau brings the past to the present and is a way for Tongans to rediscover their mana (inner power, spirit, and strength) and reconnect with their ancestral roots. And that’s definitely WHATITDO!
Article Written By: Lisa Lavulo