Tatau: Sāmoan Tattoo, New Zealand Art, Global Culture

The story of Sāmoan tattoo art and the work of Su‘a Sulu‘ape Paulo II.

By Sean Mallon, Nicholas Thomas, and Peter Brunt, photographs by Mark Adams

Publication date: May 2023
NZ RRP (incl. GST): $75
Extent: 308 pages
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-1-99-115098-1

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When Tatau was first published in 2010, Mark Adams’ renowned images documenting a great Polynesian art tradition were a revelation. It told the story of the late Sulu‘ape Paulo II, the pre-eminent figure of modern Sāmoan tattooing. A brilliantly innovative and often controversial man, he saw tatau as an art of international importance. Tatau documented his practice, and that of other , in the contexts of Polynesian tattooing, Sāmoan migrant communities and New Zealand art.

Long out-of-print, this revised and extended new edition, with its handsome large format and texts by distinguished scholars, makes a cultural treasure available once more.

Look inside Tatau

Review highlights

Author interviews

  • Peter Brunt interviewed in New Zealand Herald’s Canvas magazine

  • Peter Brunt interviewed on 531PI.

  • Peter Brunt interviewed on Radio Samoa.

About the contributors

Mark Adams is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s foremost documentary photographers. His work has been extensively exhibited in Aotearoa, Australia, South Africa and Europe and at Brazil’s São Paulo biennale.

Sean Mallon is of Sāmoan (Iva and Mulivai, Safata) and Irish (Belfast) descent. He is Senior Curator Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, where he specialises in the social and cultural history of Pacific peoples in Aotearoa. He is the author, with Sébastien Galliot, of the award-winning Tatau: A History of Sāmoan Tattooing (2018).

Nicholas Thomas is Professor of Historical Anthropology and Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. His most recent book is Voyagers: the settlement of the Pacific (2020). He co-curated the major 2018 exhibition Oceania at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, Paris, with Peter Brunt.

Peter Brunt is of Sāmoan and English descent, with ancestral connections to Lano, Vaiala and Bedfordshire. He is Associate Professor of Art History at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, where he teaches and researches the visual arts of the Pacific, focusing on the role of art in mediating cross-cultural encounters. With Nicholas Thomas he co-curated the major 2018 exhibition Oceania at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, Paris.