In Samoa when Samoan women are tattooed with the Malu the Tufuga Tatatau, or Tattoo priests tattoos the pair of thighs AND the right hand (sometimes left but rarely both hands)
“What do you think the Samoan women hand tattoo is for?” Well…lol…Theres an ancient navigation skill where Pacific navigators use their hand and the markings on their fingers to measure distances and angles of star constellations as they rise and fall in the night sky.
This is brilliant navigator Kala Tanaka of the Hokulea measuring where she needs to go using her hand. You mightve seen Moana do a weird version of it. Many Samoan hand tattoo have fish around the wrists and the stars and togitogi up the fingers. The thumb lays across the horizon while the fingers stand vertical as you align your markings with the stars. Every tattoo unique to that navigator’s experience and knowledge.
This would also tell you who the original navigators were. Pacific women. Its part of the Nafanua story we always overlook. She ruled all over Samoa and set up Tupa’i titles in villages on the complete opposite sides of Samoa. She didnt walk there you know. lol. She was an accomplished navigator. And who makes ie toga, Samoan sails? Exclusively women. Blessed week Samoa.
Zita Sefo-Martel, celebrated fautasi (longboat) skipper, High Consul to France, owner of Polynesian Xplorer, and devoted mother of four young boys, had agreed to receive her malu (tattoo) in public from the celebrated master tattooist, Tufuga Ta Tatau Su’a Sulu’ape Petelo.
In western cultures, a body tattoo is an object of adornment; in Samoa it is a sacred covenant between the bearer and the earth and community that support him or her.
Zita has described the meaning of the event in her own words:
The generic word for tattoo in Samoan is tatau. The Pe-a (tattoo for men) or malu (tattoo for women) is not only an eloquent form of living art and a record of ancient navigation and traditional culture, it is also a Samoan’s spiritual connection to Mother Earth through the physical pain and personal sacrifice experienced in the act of being tattooed.
The symbolism depicted on a tatau or malu represents a covenant between a Samoan and his or her way of life. It is “O Mea Sina”. It is sacred.
The word malu means protect, shelter, security. Malu also means house. The woman is therefore seen in Samoan culture as the protector and shelter of of the children, the family, and the village. She is the giver of bloodlines.
The symbols of the malu etched on the woman reflect the many roles of the woman in Samoan society. The malu is applied starting from the knees and working up to and finishing at the top of the thighs.