Smithsonian Museum Receives American Samoa Tatau Instruments

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Smithsonian Museum
Receives American Samoa Tatau Instruments
Traditional tattooing equipment presented by Congressman Faleomavaega

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, July 10, 2014) – Congressman Faleomavaega Eni presented last week to officials of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. a full set of tatau instruments from Samoan artists Tufuga Su’a Tupuola Uilisone Fitiao and ASCC’s Professor of Arts, Regina Meredith.

Fitiao and Meredith — both visiting artists at the Smithsonian Institute’s Recovering Voices Program — invited the Congressman to make the presentation to the Smithsonian museum. The pair thanked Faleomavaega for offering a letter of support in their application for a Community Research Grant to be a part of the program, and the Congressman congratulated them for the successful completion of their research and their commitment to preserving traditional Samoan art forms, according to a news release from the Congressman’s Office.

On behalf of the people of American Samoa, Faleomavaega made the official presentation to Dr. MaryJo Arnoldi, Chair of the Anthropology Department at the Smithsonian. The complete tatau set became the first of its kind in the Smithsonian collection.

Hand-crafted by Fitiao, the set included the following instruments: Tuluma: a storage container made of milo wood and carved with tatau patterns; Au (Tattoo Combs): Au mogo, Au sogiaso, Au lau lua, and Au tapulu; Vatu’e: Spine of the vatu’e sea urchin used to file the tusk; Sausau: Stick used for tapping the au, made of the Olasina tree; Au Tu’i: Tool used to grind the lama nut into black dye: and Ipu Popo: Container that holds the black dye.

As part of their project through the Community Research Grant, the Congressman said, Fitiao and Meredith "studied commonalities between patterns of the tatau and patterns found in siapo obtained through the Wilkes Exploring Expedition from 1838 to 1842."

"The Smithsonian has preserved these siapo for years and they are a part of our cultural heritage. I thank the Smithsonian for the opportunity to have our two Samoan artists share and gain further knowledge from these artifacts," he said.

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