Tatau Samoa History 2


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The legends vary about who was the first to give/receive the tatau.

In Congressman Eni Faleomavaega's book "Navigating the Future: A Samoan Perspective on U.S. Pacific Relations" High Chief Su'a is credited for the gving the first tatau to Paramount Chief Tuia'ana Tamalelagi.

In an article by Miki Vialetto & Giancarlo Oneto they write on behalf of Paulo Suluape stating that through his studies he found chief Ouvaa to be the first Samoan to have the Pe'a and then the first Samoan tufuga tatau. The Suluape family has descended from Su'a.

In the book "Tala o le vavau" Pauli is credited to give Tuia'ana the first tatau.

Not only is this legend important in knowing the origin of the tatau but the importance of the change to the men being the bearers of the tatau and not the women, is very important. The Samoan tatau grew to eventually have a women's own tatau, the Malu. The Pe'a was then reserved for the matai and taupo. Today, commoners are allowed to receive the Pe'a and Malu. With it comes the responsibility, tradition, and respect for Fa'a Samoa.

Change in art is an ongoing process but the traditions involved with the process, design, and meaning of the Pe'a have kept the practice alive all these years and helped to give it a unique identity.