Tribal tattoos are a big trend all over the world. Modern tribal ink is inspired by traditional Polynesian tattoo art, but tribal art itself has existed in every part of the world for as long as tattooing has been around. Read on to know more about this ancient culture – and get some tribal tattoo inspiration along the way!
In the Polynesian tatau, each symbol and even the placement of the tattoo is important, as it all has meaning and significance for the wearer and their community.
Traditional Polynesian Tribal Tattoos
Traditional tatau was done using handmade tools. The process took weeks, sometimes even years, and was extremely painful. Men that endured the long process and acquired their pe’a, the traditional male tatau, were respected for their courage. Women with malu, the traditional female tatau, were seen as protectors of the village.
The Significance of a Polynesian Tatau
Traditional tatau are reserved for Polynesian people because of how significant they are to these cultures. Each tatau symbolizes a deep connection to one’s roots, family, and ancestors, and tells the wearer’s story through art.
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Modern Polynesian Tattoos
Today, tatau is done using modern tools but many patterns from traditional tatau are still used by Polynesians for their deep meaning. Getting a tattoo that blends traditional and modern elements is not uncommon these days.
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From Polynesia to the Rest of the World!
So how did this deeply sacred art travel across the world? We have sailors to thank for that! After all, it was their love for getting inked from tattoo artists across the world that popularized tribal art!
Modern sailor and nautical tattoos continue to use many tribal styles in their designs. Particularly, the use of bold black designs remains one of the most popular techniques in tattooing.
Asian Tribal Tattoos
Asia has its own unique history of tribal tattooing. They had a long history but dealt with a long period of suppression from colonizers and missionaries. Many of the Asian tattoo art forms have since been revived.
Traditional Tribal Tattoos
Tribal tattoos in Asia used symbolism, nature, and geometric patterns in their designs, which they often replicated in their embroidery.
A little further East, the tribal tattoos of the Filipinos looks distinctly similar to their Polynesian counterparts.
Modern Tribal Tattoos
Contemporary tattooing in Asia draws on various styles including local and Polynesian tribal art. The resulting work is a unique art form that reflects the diversity of these regions.
There are now many tattoo styles that are inspired by tribal art. Some are more traditional in their approach, while others prefer to blend multiple styles to create something unique. Two of the most popular of these styles are blackwork and animal tattoos.
Blackwork tattoos were traditionally larger pieces featuring geometric or abstract patterns made with blocks of black ink, as they were heavily influenced by tribal designs. Over time, blackwork has become a much more extensive style of tattooing and can be as minimal as line-work or extensive as sleeves or back pieces, but it still retains the quality of using only black ink to create the whole tattoo.
Of modern tribal-inspired blackwork designs, armbands tend to be extremely popular. These can be minimal or extensive, but the more minimalist armband tends to be the most common choice. While they originally represented loss, they are now chosen more for their aesthetic appeal.
Animal tattoos are a favourite across the tattoo community – and beyond! Tribes from all over the world have been using animals in their designs for as long as they have been tattooing. Many non-inkers are also drawn to these designs, and often sketch them or get them printed on clothing.
For Polynesians, turtles and turtle shells feature prominently in a lot of their tattoos. Even the tools for traditional tatau include turtle shells!
Turtles represent a strong connection to both nature as well as yourself and your path. In Polynesian tattoos, the turtle can represent many things including health, fertility, peace, and rest. It is sometimes associated with being a guide that helps departed souls find their destination.
Over time, animal tattoos have evolved into an art form of their own. Tattoo artists usually draw from multiple styles in each piece. But the distinctive bold black ink that comes from tribal art continues to be visible in many animal tattoos.
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Thanks for stopping by! Happy inking!