Tattoo’s are an integral part of Polynesian culture, and Hawaiian culture is no exception In regards to the importance of tattoos.
The process of tattooing was seen as an elaborate ritual that had to be respected.
When compared to today’s methods of tattooing old style Hawaiian methods seem primitive and dangerous. Using tools such as bird beaks, claws and fish bones the process was often painful and brought with it, a high risk of infection.
The sharp tool was dipped in a dye (made from burnt seed pods and sugarcane juice giving the dye a black inky look) and run over the body while being gently hit by a stick causing it to pierce the skin and depositing the dye under the skin.
The risk of getting a serious infection was usually dismissed as getting the tattoo was a very important part of the culture.
Unlike today where tattoos are more of a lifestyle decision, traditional Hawaiian tattoos on a mans body were used as signs of achievements or status. While women usually only had tattoos on places like hands, arms, feet, ears, tongue etc.
The design of Hawaiian tattoos traditionally were usually geometric is design with use of curved lines, circles and “pointy” like designs. This style of tattooing has heavily influenced modern tattooing with a popular style currently known as “tribal” that is quite commonly seen of football players and fitness buffs.
After European influences began the tattooing moved from abstract designs and began a more pictorial approach. Tattooing animals and objects onto themselves.