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November 13, 2021–July 4, 2022 

Tatau: Marks of Polynesia explores the beauty of Samoan tattoos as well as the role they play in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture. Through an array of photographs, Tatau showcases the work of traditional Samoan tattoo masters alongside that of younger practitioners working within and influenced by the tradition today.

Now Closed

November 13, 2021–July 4, 2022

Museum Hours

Open Daily
9 am – 5 pm
Closed Thanksgiving
& Christmas Day


All Ages


J.M. Long Gallery


Members: Free
Adults: $24.95
Seniors (65+): $21.95
Youth (4–17): $16.95
Children (3 and under): Free
Children age 16 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.

Tattooing has long been held as not just a practice in art but also a way to tell stories through art, through the intimate painting of one’s body. Sāmoa’s tatau is one of the world’s most distinct tattoo traditions. It is an indigenous art form dating back 2,000 years, and has played a pivotal role in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture.  

In Sāmoa, tufuga tā tatau (master tattoo artists) are granted high status in society and acquiring tatau is considered a powerful affirmation of national identity, particularly for young men, for whom it is an important rite of passage.  

This exhibition is an opportunity to learn what tatau signifies in Samoan culture, and how it helps Samoans and other Polynesians living abroad stay connected to their identity and heritage.  

An important focus of Tatau: Marks of Polynesia is the influential Sulu‘ape family and their disciples; the legendary Petelo Sulu‘ape and his late brother Paulo are credited with spurring the resurgence of Samoan tattoos worldwide.  

As the Tatau exhibition highlights Samoan tattooing implements, Bishop Museum has also curated its cultural collection items to highlight implements from both Hawaiʻi and Sāmoa, as an added feature to the exhibition. Through this effort, the Museum aims to show the connections between the cultures of Polynesia through the lens of tattooing practices and traditions. These select items from Bishop Museum’s collections are rarely on view.  

Tatau: Marks of Polynesia is organized by the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California, and is supported in part, by Mariko Gordon and Hugh Cosman. This exhibition is curated by Takahiro “Ryudaibori” Kitamura. Exhibit photography is by John Agcaoili.

This exhibit is organized by

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Mahalo to our generous sponsors:

Contributing Sponsor

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Media Sponsor

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Sustaining Sponsor

Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Scott Hawaii

Contributing Sponsors

DeeAnn Yabusaki  
Elizabeth Rice Grossman
Lauran Bromley
Omidyar ‘Ohana Fund at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation

Hospitality Sponsor

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Media Sponsor

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Documentation Sponsor

Redefined Media

Food Sponsor

The Aja Group

Additional support provided by

Bloomingdale’s, Kahala Sportswear, and UNIQLO Hawaii

Cover image: Artist Will Barras photographed by Brandon Shigeta. Courtesy of POW! WOW!
Slider images: Artists Kaplan Bunce, Alex Pardee, Kamea Hadar, and Crisselle Mendiola photographed by Brandon Shigeta. All images are courtesy of POW! WOW!
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