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Samoan Material Culture

Traditional Origin

Traditional Origin

The tattooing artists formed an influential guild in their day. The patron deities of the craft were Taenia and Tilafainga. In the myth recorded by Fraser (12, p. 179) it is stated that Taema and Tilafainga were the Siamese twins from Manua who went from Tutuila to Fiji. There they became friends with two tattooing artists named Tufou and Filelei from whom they obtained page 659
Figure 338.—Women's tattooing designs (thigh):

Figure 338.—Women's tattooing designs (thigh):

a, back of right leg. The malu (1) is tattooed in the middle vertical line of the popliteal space about 1.125 inches above the line of the knee joint. Below the malu, three tern or letters M are made in vertical line (2). Below the actual joint line two transverse caterpillar lines (3) are made. Towards the outer surface, the caterpillar motive is replaced by a short centipede motive without side legs. These are continued in a single transverse band around the knee joint to form the knee belt or fusi tuli. Below the single row of short centipedes, there is a row of short caterpillar motives, with a row of bent knees below that again. The three rows are included in the knee belt. As the belt passes around to the front, the patient is turned over. b, Front of right leg. In the middle line of the anterior surface, a star (1) is tattooed over the ligament by which the patella is attached to the tibia. The star is in the direct line of the knee belt. The belt (2) is tattooed as far as the median star and then carried on around the inner surface (3) until it meets the two caterpillar lines on the back of the joint (a, 3). From above the anterior star, a vertical line called atu fa'atala is carried up in the middle line (4). The line is composed of two vertical pairs of tern or M (5) followed by two short centipedes (6) with legs and the order repeated to the end. c, Inner side, right leg. In the middle line of the inner surface of the leg, a star (1) is tattooed just above the belt and so resting right over the knee joint interval between the femur and the tibia. From the internal star, another line is erected vertically in the middle line (2) consisting of two vertical rows of pairs of terns or the letter M (4) and N (5). At the upper end, the letter N gives way to caterpillars (6). The young artist called the centipede motives fa'atala and though there are none in the inner vertical line, the line was still called an atu fa'atala. Between the internal and anterior vertical lines some diagonal caterpillar lines (7) are tattooed to break up the surface. d, Outer side, right leg. In the middle of the external surface a large star (1) is tattooed just above the knee belt (2). From this another atu fa'atala (3) extends vertically upwards. The motives again consist, like those of the anterior vertical line, of two pair of tern or the letter M (4) and the longer centipede motive which may have legs (5) or be without them. (6). Diagonal connecting caterpillars (7) are then extended to meet similar lines from the anterior vertical line. The aveau motive (8) is introduced into the vertical row. Returning to (a, posterior surface.) Above the malu motive (1), three vertically placed tern (4) are made. Above these two transverse lines are formed, the upper being the zigzag caterpillar (5) and the lower the bent knees (6). Here again page 660the young artist called the zigzag motive, atualoa instead of anufe and hence referred to the transverse lines as a landmark called fa'aatualoa-o-le-alo-i-vae. Fa'aanufe would be more correct. From above this in the middle line rises the vertical arrangement of the letters M and the paired centipedes (7). The oblique cross (8) forms the aveau (sea-star) motive. On either side of the posterior vertical line now called the atutala-o-le-alo-i-vae, oblique caterpillar patterns (9) are formed to meet similar lines from the internal and external lines. The tali malu unit is next dealt with by making transverse lines of different motives below the knee belt on the posterior surface. Thus the first line consists of the variant star motive (10). Then follows the letter M (11), the letter N (12) and finally a row of bent knees (13). The number of lines made in the tali malu depends on the length of the girl's limbs. Short girls got fewer lines as it was not the fashion to come too far down on the calf. The fusi upper belt (14) is the last part tattooed. It consists of two transverse rows of various motives, such as the bent knee, M, N, and caterpillar. It runs from the upper end of the anterior vertical lines in (b) outwards above the end of the external vertical line in (d), and continuing inwards on the posterior surface ends above the posterior vertical line in (a). The belt is marked 14 in figures a, b, and d.

tattooing instruments as well, evidently, as a knowledge of the craft. The names of Tufou and Filelei are remembered in the songs sung during the tattooing operation. These women returned to Falealupo in Savaii where Tilafainga became the war goddess Nafanua. Taema swam back to Tutuila where she settled down at Poloa and followed the occupation of tattooing. In the land of Tufou and Filelei, it was the custom to tattoo the women and not the men. Taema kept repeating this during her swim, but ended up by getting the order reversed. Hence her song on arrival at Tutuila was:
Tupu le tane, ta le tatau. When a male grows up, tattoo him.
Tupu fafine, fanafanau. When a woman grows up, let her bear children.