Samoan tattoos have a long and meaningful history, dating back to over 2000 years ago. These tattoos are often seen as symbols of warrior spirit and bravery.
People of Smaoan heritage (like Dwayne The Rock Johnson) use these designs to commemorate important life events.
Traditional Samoan tattoo designs feature geometric patterns in black ink, although modern versions can also include a range of colors.
Samoan Tattoo Ideas
If you are looking for an enduring way to express yourself, Samoan tattoos are a meaningful and powerful option. The beauty of these tattoos is that these designs can tell your story beautifully and uniquely (remember Maui from Moana?).
Here are some popular designs that are found in Samoan tattoos –
1. Teuila (Flower) – A symbol of love, beauty, and new beginnings.
2. Uenuenue (Rainbow) – Representing the journey between birth and death, this design signifies hope for those seeking guidance on their path through life.
3. Pe’a (Male Tattoo) – One of the most important tattoos in Samoan culture, pe’a is reserved for men and covers their legs and lower torso. This design features complex geometric shapes and symbols such as a turtle, which represents strength and courage.
4. Malu (Female Tattoo) – A female counterpart to pe’a, malu covers the arms, hands, and upper body. This is an elegant flower-shaped design that symbolizes femininity and grace. It is often accompanied by two concentric circles which represent eternity.
5. Tanoa (Canoe Prow) – Representing travel and exploration, this design is symbolic of voyages both physical and spiritual.
6. Uliuli or Māfaele (Sea Turtle) – Symbolizing longevity and wisdom, this design often includes an additional wave pattern to represent eternal life.
7. Tangata Fue (Bird Man) – Commonly found on men’s chests, this design symbolizes courage and strength.
8. Toa (Warrior) – Representing the power of the warrior spirit, this tattoo is given to those who have completed a rigorous physical challenge.
9. Tuiga (Ceremonial Headdress) – A powerful sign of high rank, tuiga tattoos are often found on the foreheads or above the eyebrows of Samoan chiefs.
10. Ulaula (Mask) – Symbolizing protection from evil spirits, this design can also represent one’s connection to their ancestors.
11. Siapo Mālō (Tapa Cloth) – An intricate weaving pattern used to decorate tapa cloth, siapo mālō tattoos convey a message of strength and resilience.
12. Sina (Coconut Tree) – This design symbolizes unity and family, representing the importance of community in Samoan culture.
13. Ulumaevae (Sea Urchin) – A reminder to stay grounded, this tattoo features five points that represent the wisdom of nature and its connection to humanity.
14. Ulufale (Shark Tooth) – This represents courage, protection, and respect for ancestors who have passed on knowledge through generations.
15. Paoa (Plant) – Representing new beginnings, this design is a reminder that life is constantly evolving and changing for the better.
16. The Soga’i Moli – This represents bravery in battle and consists of three parallel arrows.
17. The Tafaifai – This tattoo consists of multiple intersecting lines, which represent the interconnectedness of all things in life.
18. The Aumaga – This symbolizes service to the community and is made up of a series of dots that form a fish or whale shape.
19. The Tanoa – Representing fertility and abundance, this design features two hands holding a bowl filled with fruits and vegetables.
20. The Tatau Sulufou – This refers to a geometric pattern that can be used to represent protection from harm or bad luck.
21. The Uliuli – Featuring circles connected by spirals, this design symbolizes growth and evolution.
22. The Manaia – This design is meant to represent a guardian spirit or guide, and is often depicted with the head of a bird, the body of a man, and the tail of a fish.
23. The Palemene – This tattoo symbolizes faith and spirituality and consists of five circles connected by spirals or hands.
Samoan Tattoos Meanings and Symbolisms
In Samoa, tattoos are known as “Pe’a” and have been used for centuries.
They are a form of marking that is both spiritual And decorative. Traditionally, only men were allowed to receive tattoos but this practice has changed in recent years with women being able to get them as well.
The meanings behind Samoan tattoos vary greatly depending on the design chosen by the individual.
Some of these designs include symbols from nature such as turtles or fish or even dragons, which represent strength and protection; while others may be more abstract patterns that signify success or prosperity.
Many Samoans also choose to tattoo their family crest on their bodies to show loyalty and pride in their heritage.
While Samoan tattoos are said to be chosen by people belonging to the Polynesian tribes but this is not entirely true.
Yes, Samoan people use them as a way to reclaim their cultural identity but you too can get them inked on your body as a way to express your connection to the Samoan people.
In the ancient Polynesian tribes, tattoos were seen as an important rite of passage that signified adulthood and marked one’s transition into society.
This is still very much true today, with many adults getting them as a reminder of their culture and heritage or as a way to show off their unique style.
Samoan men and women wear their tattoos with great pride and honor.
Pe’a tattoos are typically made up of geometric shapes that have special meanings such as circles symbolizing protection or rectangles representing longevity.
Traditionally these designs were done by hand using tools like boars teeth and sharpened sticks to create the lines, today they can be applied with modern tattoo machines.
Though not all Samoans have tattoos, those that do take great care to ensure the designs are done correctly and accorded proper respect.
The symbolism behind the pe’a styling is deeply embedded into the culture and provides a lasting reminder of the importance of family and community to Samoan society. By having a pe’a, individuals become part of the larger story and history that continues to be shared, passed down, and celebrated throughout Samoa.
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If you are lucky enough to receive a Samoan tattoo, it will always remain with you as an everlasting symbol of strength, courage, respect, and honor. The stories behind these traditional designs tell us how much they mean to those wearing them- and how they continue to serve as powerful reminders of our cultural heritage.
References: Samoa Wiki