Tattoo Comb

Wooden handle with brush on end for tattooing

Tatooing tool, Samoa, mid 20thc, © Australian Museum.

There are traditions of tattooing women and women all around the world. Typically, tattoos indicate the time of transition from girlhood to womanhood, only after puberty. And for females, it seems that the position of the tattoos come in very visible and sensitive parts of the human body: the brow, forehead, lips, palms and stomach. Among the greatest and most extreme is the malu from Samoa. The malu covers the legs from just under the floor to the tops of their knees.

This conventional piercing comb has been created in Samoa with an unknown tufuga tatatau (piercing specialist). Tattooing at Samoa is practiced by members of particular households and is very sacred. Made from coconut and shell, these tools are amazingly intricate to have the ability to earn several kinds of layouts. The comb has sharp teeth that are dipped into black pigment, then reach so it perforates and leaves the pigment under the skin. Acquiring the tattoo is quite a long and extremely painful procedure. It’s a ritual that teaches girls to control their feelings rather than give in to the pain. In the 19th century, just a leader’s daughter was allowed to wear the malu. It shown her predominantly line as well as her inner mana (power). Meanings of those layouts in malu have to do with shelter and protection.

In the late 20th century, most women of non-chief traces have obtained the malu tattoo. But today, getting conventional Polynesian tattoo designs is quite popular among non-Samoans. The malu. There are a couple stories of non-Samoan women using the malu done. This is controversial among Samoans. In a time of cultural appropriation and commercialization, folks will need to hold on to what’s unique, what’s theirs. It is not about unwillingness to discuss, it is about power and ongoing colonization and manipulation.

— Ashley E Remer

Head Girl

Girl Museum, Inc..

This article is part of the 52 Objects from the Annals of Girlhood exhibition. Each week during 2017, we explore a historic object and its relation to women’ history. Stay tuned to detect the extraordinary history of women, and make sure you visit the complete exhibition to detect the key role women have performed since the dawn of time.

The article Tattoo Comb appeared on Girl Museum.


Tattoo Comb