The story of Polynesian tattoo art, or tatau, is one of fierce dedication to cultural tradition. Despite attempts by western missionaries to eliminate the practice, tatau has survived for over two thousand years, passed down through generations of skilled tattoo artists. The act of acquiring tatau is itself a grueling test of endurance and tolerance for pain. Thus, wearing these traditional marks is a bold statement of cultural pride.
Recognizing the importance of what tatau symbolizes, and its relevance to JANM’s work of promoting diversity, JANM will present Tatau: Marks of Polynesia, an exhibition on the artistry and legacy of Samoan tattoo.
Opening in Summer 2016, Tatau will build on JANM’s immensely popular 2014 exhibition Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World. Like Perseverence, Tatau is curated by acclaimed tattoo artist and author Takahiro Kitamura. We hope Tatau will inspire and enlighten our members and frequent visitors, while also introducing JANM and the Japanese American story to new audiences.
Because we expect Tatau will appeal to diverse communities, JANM was open to exploring new options for funding the exhibition. Earlier this month, the museum launched its first-ever crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise funds for Tatau. Contributions to the campaign will support photographing tatau, installing the exhibition at the museum, and publishing a full-color catalog. Recently, Kitamura and exhibition photographer John Agcaoili traveled to Hawai‘i to consult with Sulu’ape Steve Looney and Danielle Steffany-Looney of Pacific Soul Tattoo as well as Edward Danielson, lecturer in the Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures, University of Hawai‘i, to ensure the cultural accuracy of the exhibition narrative.
So far, the campaign has attracted interest from around the world and raised several thousand dollars for the exhibition through donations of all sizes. Currently, we are about one-third of the way to our goal of raising $20,000.
Visit our Tatau Indiegogo page to learn more about the exhibition and help us reach our fundraising goal. Our campaign runs through December 3, 2015. And we hope to see you when Tatau comes to JANM next year.