from notes archived at Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai'i
Types of tatoo
The tatooing of the body went to the lower ribs, and the string lines were just under the nipples. This is at least four inches more tatooing than is done on Samoans. The design was criss-cross or latticed work and not filled in as solidly as in the Samoan practice.
Tatooing instrument = fagho. This is the same comb with handle instrument of the Samoans. The comb is made of the vertebrae of a fish; sui means bone. The dye is made of ground up, roasted candle nuts. The nut = si'esi.
Mahala is the dye of the candle nut.
fä'peka means the tatoo from the pubis to the navel.
sasa also means to tatoo, the arm and shoulder.
sunsi'u = refers to tatoos on the arm.
uma = shoulder
The arm patterns on Akanisi were done by two majau of Faguta. They are irregular and said to be made out of the operators' minds. There was one design so intricate and closed by the flabbiness of the skin that it could not be copied. It was similar to the circular design on Mou. The work of these tatooers is certainly greatly inferior to Samoan work. Each figure has an irregular form or is asymmetrical, except the larger ones. Akanisi said the patterns had no names. Nearly all the figures were filled in. The tatooing ran from the shoulder to the wrist on each arm.
Formerly women tatooed their arms and some their jaws. The whole arm was tatooed and all the hands. A line was tatooed over the jaw bone, but the pattern or form was not stated. It did not seem to extend onto the cheeks from the information and description given. There was also a line tatooed around the feet at about the height reached by a sneaker. This and the hand tatooing seem most common today.
Tatooing was stopped by the missionaries.
The stain was made from the roasted shell of the hifau nut. The powder thus made, called mahala, was mixed with water, and in this the instruments were dipped.
Left arm design of tatooing on Akanisi, aged over 80, was done by one majau. Her right arm was done by a different majau.
majau = expert; person with special skills
mahala = charcoal, cinders; black lead
The dye is made from the si'esi (candle nut). It is roasted until half-burnt, into a charcoal-like state.
The design was marked on the skin and then the tatoo instrument was tapped over the lines.
The tatooer used a tortoise shell impregnator like a narrow, short toothed comb. The teeth were made short so that they would not penetrate too far into the skin.
The legs were formerly tatooed from below the knee to the loins. But in contrast to the Samoan style, they tatooed across the abdomen between the pubis and the umbilicus. They also had the "string" lines of the Samoan tatoo that came from the small of the back around the sides but which did not join.
Tatooing has been stopped by the missionaries.
When a chief is tatooed, a complementary tatoo on someone else must take place. This is because the chief is wounded and his blood spilt. Someone must be hurt also in payment for the chief's suffering. Compensation and reciprocal.
Men who were tatooed were considered dressed and might appear without sulu modestly.
An untatooed man could not cook fekei.
Only women who had their arms and hands tatued could make kava. They did not tatoo any other parts of the body.