Polynesian Armband Tattoo

Black & Grey / Custom / Polynesian

The Polynesian tattoo symbols of spearheads can be found in almost every Polynesian tattoo design. It’s designed to express courage and fight. It’s also used to represent warrior, sharp items, and the sting of animals and rays. Spearheads are usually used in combination with other symbols to express certain meanings.

In 1771, when James Cook first returned to Tahiti and New Zealand from his first voyage, the word “tattoo” appeared in Europe.

He narrated the behaviors of the Polynesian people in his voyage, which he called tattaw. He also brought a Tahitian named Ma’i to Europe and since then tattoo started to become rapidly famous, predominantly because of the tattoos of Ma’i.

Another legend is that European sailors liked the Polynesian tattoos. So much that they spread extremely fast in Europe because the sailors emblazoned the tattoos on their own bodies.

The actual tradition of Polynesian tattooing existed more than 2000 years ago. However, in the 18th century, the Old Testament strictly banned the operation.

Since it’s renaissance in the 1980s, many lost arts were revived. But it became very difficult to sterilize the wooden and bone tools. That was used for the tattooing process so the Ministry of Health banned tattooing in French Polynesia in 1986.

The revival of the art and practice of tattooing, particularly in Tonga in recent years. Is predominantly referred to as a result of the work of scholars, researchers, visual artists and tattoo artists.

Forearm Tattoo

Spearheads are usually used in combination with other symbols to express certain meanings.

One thing that is certain is that the term Polynesian or Polynesia incorporates many tribes including Marquesans, Samoans, Niueans, Tongans, Cook Islanders, Hawaiians, Tahitians, and Maori. All of these tribes are genetically linked to the indigenous peoples from parts of Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia and in turn, Polynesia are sub-regions of Oceania, comprising of a large grouping of over 1000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean, within a triangle that encompasses New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island as it’s corners.

However, Polynesian languages may actually vary slightly from each other, and in some cases, they actually differ quite significantly. There are some words, which are basically the same throughout all Polynesian languages, reflecting the deepest core of all Polynesian cultures. Moana (ocean) and mana (spiritual force and energy) are two terms that transcend all Polynesian cultures.

Moana (ocean) and mana (spiritual force and energy) are two terms that transcend all Polynesian cultures.

The Origins of Tattoo Art in Polynesia

Historically there was no writing in the Polynesian culture so the Polynesian’s used tattoo art that was full of distinctive signs to express their identity and personality. Tattoos would indicate status in a hierarchical society as well as sexual maturity, genealogy and ones rank within the society. Nearly everyone in ancient Polynesian society was tattooed.

Tattoos would indicate status in a hierarchical society as well as sexual maturity, genealogy and ones rank within the society. Nearly everyone in ancient Polynesian society was tattooed.

The Polynesian islands that were first visited were the Marquesas Islands, which were found by European explorers and the Spanish navigator, Alvaro de Mendana de Neira, in 1595. However, the European navigators showed little interest due to the lack of valuable resources.

Captain James Cook (as mentioned in our comprehensive guide to Maori tattooing) was the first navigator trying to explore the aforementioned Polynesian triangle.