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Book Launch – Tatau: A Cultural History of Samoan Tattooing

Friday 10 August 2018, 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

$8.00 – $15.00


Join us in the Te Papa Store, surrounded by books for this exclusive launch of Tatau: A Cultural History of Samoan Tattooing. A beautifully designed and richly illustrated retelling of the unique and powerful social history of Samoan tattooing, from 3000 years ago to modern practices.

Sit back with a glass of wine and delve into this rich and complex 3000 year history with Te Papa’s Sean Mallon, Senior Curator of Pacific Cultures and the books co-author.  Get an up close, privileged look at one of the tattooing items that was collected by the museum in conjunction with the books research and have the chance to ask Sean questions at the end of the session. Friend members will get 15% off the book, non members 10%.


This cultural history is the first publication to examine 3000 years of Samoan tatau. Through a chronology rich with people, encounters and events it describes how Samoan tattooing has been shaped by local and external forces of change over many centuries. It argues that Samoan tatau has a long history of relevance both within and beyond Samoa, and a more complicated history than is currently presented in the literature. The Samoan Islands are virtually unique in that tattooing has been continuously practiced with indigenous techniques: the full male tattoo, the pe’a has evolved in subtle ways in its design since the nineteenth century, but remains as elaborate, meaningful, and powerful as it ever was. It is richly illustrated with historical images of nineteenth and twentieth century Samoan tattooing, contemporary tattooing, diagrams of tattoo designs and motifs, and with supplementary photographs such as posters, ephemera, film stills and artefacts.

About the authors:

Sean Mallon is of Samoan and Irish descent and is Senior Curator Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. He is the author of Samoan Art and Artists (2002) and co-edited Pacific Art Niu Sila: The Pacific dimension of contemporary New Zealand arts (2002) Tatau: Samoan tattoo, New Zealand art, global culture (2010) and Tangata o le Moana: the story of New Zealand and the people of the Pacific (2012). His exhibitions include Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth (with Maud Page) (2009); Tangata o le Moana (2007), Voyagers: discovering the Pacific and Tatau/Tattoo (2002). He has been a council member of The Polynesian Society since 2008.

Sébastien Galliot studied ethnology at the University of Provence and EHESS (Paris), France’s foremost research school in social sciences. His research focuses on Samoan traditional tattooing and the contemporary practice of this ritual. Since 2001, he has made several visits to Samoa, Tonga and Fiji in order to do field research. His articles include “Samoan tattoos leave indelible global imprint”, Voices: Unesco in Asia and the Pacific, 27 July- September 2011, pp. 10-11. Sébastien is also a self-taught photographer and filmmaker. During a one-year residence in Samoa in 2005, he took hundreds of pictures and hours of film and exhibited a selection of those photographs in France (Marseille, Correns). He has given guest lectures on tattooing at Te Papa and at conferences in Samoa and Europe.


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Friday 10 August 2018
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
$8.00 – $15.00
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Te Papa Store, Te Papa
55 Cable Street
Wellington, 6011 New Zealand


Friends of Te Papa
(04) 381 7051