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Tatatau - Tongan Tattoo


About This Site
Created by Ni Powell

This site was created to address the lack of awareness of the Tongan Tatatau tradition. After researching for years, I've decided to compile the little information found on Tongan Tatatau. Early reference on Tongan Tattooing is scarce and the knowledge of it is quickly passing with each generation. I wanted to preserve this once important part of the Tongan culture and provide an accessible site for those interested in learning more.

Because of the lack of sufficient information, some views may conflict with those presented here. I have come across many of these contradictions myself when speaking with Tongans and non-Tongans. I've tried my best to separate the information and put forth a more complete understanding of the Tongan Tatatau. I welcome any criticisms, comments, and/or additional information that can be provided in order to strengthen the awareness.

I am hoping that this site will be a wealth of information for Tongans and non-Tongans who are interested in learning more about the Tatatau.  In doing this, I am also hoping that individuals may become inspired to do further research into this ancient tradition, thereby keeping it alive.
Thank you for the support many of you have given me and this site over the years.  I truly value everything that is Tongan, current practices and forgotten traditions.  Lately, I've wanted to address some questions that have come up over the years by individuals seeking more knowledge about Tonga's tattoo tradition.  I will begin a blog that will make it easier for me to post updates and answer questions, as well as allowing you to comment and offer up any information you might have.

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The drawing above was done by d'Urville in the early 1800's. It is the only known sketch of the traditional Tongan Tatatau. As described by others who were fortunate enough to observe the Tatatau, it was similar in body placement, design and significance to other areas of Polynesia such as Samoa, Tuvalu, Tokelau, etc.

Like most early drawings, however, there have been criticisms. I have heard that some of the areas that appear to be solid black were actually fine and closely spaced patterns that (from a distance) appeared to be solid black.


The above image was found by a friend, Cheyenne Morrison and referred to me to include on the website.  The artist is Felipe Bauza, titled "Men of the islands of Vava'u" [Hombres de las Islas de Babao]

The drawing was made on the Spanish Scientific Expedition to 
Australia and
the Pacific in the ships Descubierta and Atrevida under the command of
Alessandro Malaspina, 1789-1794

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