Thanks to a perse blend of cultures rich with tattoo traditions, Hawaii has become somewhat of a mecca for the art form. Overtime, Polynesian, Hawaiian, Asian and even military ink have created a visual language from which people learn and appreciate today.
Examples of Hawaiian (left) and Asian (right) tattoos in the islands.
In fact, it’s become so mainstream that art establishments are starting to take notice. The Honolulu Museum of Art just launched an exhibit linking the past with the present of Hawaii’s tattoo art through works such as, 19th-century prints depicting tattooed Hawaiians and 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints that are the source of many contemporary tattoos. The exhibit also showcases specialized tools used by artists and textiles linked to Polynesian tattoos.
While I don’t have any tattoos, I’ve always had an appreciation for them and see tattoos as an important art form in today’s society. They’re no longer viewed as a mark of the marginal but as a respectable form of self-expression. I enjoyed learning about the evolution of tattoos during a recent visit to the exhibit. It was neat to see the comparison of various inks, such as the traditional Hawaiian kakau and tattoos found in Japan and throughout Polynesia. A few of my friends have traditional Hawaiian tattoos in correlation to Hawaiian goddess Hina and male god Ku.
The “Tattoo Honolulu” art exhibit explores the art form’s evolution in Hawaii.
In addition to the exhibit, visitors can meet Brooklyn-born artist Mike Ledger, who was introduced to the tattoo culture by his fully-tatted grandfather. A lecture series by Tricia Allen, called “Tattoo Traditions of Polynesia,” will take place July 30 and Aug. 5, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
“ TATTOO HONOLULU”EXHIBIT • Ends January 2013 • Honolulu Museum of Art, 900 S. Beretania St., Honolulu, HI 96814 • 808-532-8700 • For admission and hours, visit www.honolulumuseum.org
Photo Credit: Honolulu Museum of Art