I grew up in a Christian household and saw tattoos as defiling our bodies. Movies and television depicted villains and "bad people" with tattoos. Tattoos in my youth meant something negative.
Then as a teenager the cool thing to do was get a taulima (tattoo around arm). Today the cool thing would equate to a sleeve.
The thing is, even though it is cool, it doesn't give our people the actual connection that tatau (tattoo) has to our Samoan culture.
Each motif has a meaning. Placement in the pe'a and malu has a meaning.
We lose the meaning of the tatau when non-Samoans take our motifs and use them to make money. We lose the meaning when our people don't learn the history of the tatau.
So, what do Samoan tatau (tattoos) mean? Watch the video below.