Contemporary Indigenous Tattooing in Sāmoa and Paiwan

Event details

PhD Seminar

Date & time

Friday 15 May 2020


Online Seminar - Join via Zoom


Suliljaw Lusausatj


Suliljaw Lusausatj

My PhD thesis examines two tattooing cultures, in Samoan and Paiwan (Taiwan) villages, seeking to understand how tatau/vecik is practiced and thought of across multiple locations. Ethnographic fieldwork for this thesis has been comparative and engaged, based on in-depth interviews and participant observation over fourteen months, from 2017 to 2019, through multi-sited immersions in the village of Aai-O-Niue in Apia and multiple indigenous Paiwan communities in Southern Taiwan. Short-term fieldwork in Mo’orea, French Polynesia and Tauranga, Aotearoa has added a further dimension to the study. I describe my research in terms of five broad themes: 1) the interweaving of places and discourses of the Li’aifaiva tattooing family in Samoa; 2) tattooing and tattooed bodies as sensory practices; 3) the politics of tattooing; 4) tattooing in a contemporary setting; and 5) tattooing cultures as bridging our sea of Oceanic islands.

The practice of tatau maintained by the Li’aifaiva family draws on a legendary genealogy linked to a specific landscape, but converts spaces into places within an urban setting through the negotiation of vā (the Samoan/Tongan concept of the betweenness of relational spaces, which requires consistent nurturing). By comparing insights from the practice of vecik in Paiwan, I argue that contemporary tattoo provides an important link that brings Taiwanese Indigenous Peoples into relation with Oceanic communities. I aim to provide a deeper understanding of Oceanian inking by tracking the developing conversation amongst a growing community of customary tattoo artists and tattoo wearers. This focus on situated tattooing practices set within a multitude of flowing places is also a contribution to the goal of further connectedness amongst Indigenous Oceanians.

Online video system Zoom:

Meeting ID: 993 2236 724

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