Sui faiga ae tumau fa’avae is a Pacific tatau (tattoo) exhibition featuring artists Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi, Ismael Jaco ‘J’ Augustine Schmidt and Bryan ‘Juse One’ Visala.
The title of their exhibition refers to foundations remaining rooted while growth continues above.
This saying expresses their belief that customary Pacific tatau patterning and symbolism can be combined with contemporary designs to uphold ancestral traditions while also responding to the realities of urban life.
In 2011 the elder of this group Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi opened Taupou Tatau, an artist studio on the corner of Dixon and Victoria Street in Wellington specialising in contemporary Pacific tatau, design and graffiti art. They share this space with the Killa Kutz barber crew Pio ‘Rock’ Paulo, Poasa ‘P’ Poasa and Michael ‘Snoop’ Vaisigano who specialise in urban Pacific hair styling.
Together the artists of Taupou Tatau and Killa Kutz represent a local manifestation of a wider international movement towards urban expressions of contemporary Pacific culture and style as it exists today.
In Samoan culture the discovery of tatau (tattooing) is commonly associated with the story of Taema and Tilafaiga, two sisters who travelled to Fiji and returned reciting a song instructing only women of high social status to be tattooed. At some stage confusion occurred and the song was reversed, instructing men of rank to be tattooed. Subsequently the male pe’a and female malu, tattoos of the legs and torso, have become customary markers of prestige and social status for men and women.
Artists who perform tatau are revered for their artistry and are afforded a special status within the community as tufuga tatatau (master tattoo artists). Today a new generation of artists have developed the traditional practices of tufuga tatatau to create a new mode of tatau that caters to the needs and desires of migrant Pacific communities. This new tatau combines customary patterning and symbolism with contemporary designs that respond to current fashions and conceptions of style. For a younger generation of Pacific people this form of tatau upholds ancestral traditions while also acknowledging the realities of urban life. The three tatau artists in this exhibition provide this offering to their community.
Taupou Tatau and Killa Kutz will be performing tatau and hair styling demonstrations in the Gallery from Friday 10 August to Sunday 7 October 2012, excluding Sundays. From Monday 27 August to Friday 14 September tufuga tatatau Paul Junior Sulu’ape will be performing ‘au ta demonstrations, the customary technique of tapping pigment into the skin using a comb chisel.
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