TATAU: SAMOAN TATTOO, NEW ZEALAND ART, GLOBAL CULTURE
When Tatau was first published in 2010, Mark Adams’ renowned images documenting a great Polynesian art tradition were a revelation. Mostly taken between 1978 and 2005, these photographs recorded the contemporary expressions of tatau (tattoo) and told the story of the late Sulu’ape Paulo II, the preeminent figure of modern Samoan tattooing. A brilliantly innovative and often controversial man, he saw tatau as an art of international importance. Tatau documented his practice, and that of other tufuga ta tatau (tattoo artists), and interpreted it within the contexts of Polynesian tattooing, Samoan migrant communities, and New Zealand art.
As in the original edition, the book is also concerned with what photographer Mark Adams has done with tatau. His images provide powerful and indeed moving records of certain times and people, some of whom have now passed on. Yet, despite their documentary nature, his images do much more than record a technique of body decoration or a scene around it. They ask tough questions of the scene and its history—questions that may inevitably remain unanswered. And, despite their virtuosity, the images exude a certain discomfort with the business of cross-cultural image making, with its histories, and with New Zealand’s culture and politics.
Long out-of-print, this revised and extended edition, with its handsome larger format and texts by distinguished scholars, makes a cultural treasure available once more.