The popularity of tattoos today is a revival of a practice begun in the late eighteenth century, when Westerners first made contact with the native peoples of the Pacific.
The term 'tattoo' entered Europe with the publication of Captain Cook's voyages in the 1770s, and Pacific tattoos became fashionable in the West as sailors, whalers and explorers brought home tattoos from Tahiti, the Marquesas, New Zealand and Polynesia. In recent years these early contacts have been revived, as native tattooists from Oceania have begun tattooing non-Polynesians in Europe, the USA and elsewhere.
Tattoo is both a fascinating book about these early Oceanic-European exchanges, that also documents developments up to the present day, and the first to look at the history of tattooing in Oceania itself. Documenting these complex cultural interactions in the first part of the book, the authors move from issues of encounter, representation and exchange to the interventions of missionaries and the colonial state in local tattoo practices.
Highly illustrated with many previously unseen images, for example the original voyage sketches of the first Russian circumnavigation of 1803-6, this is a fascinating account of early tattooing and cultural exchange in Oceania, and will appeal to the wide audience interested in the history of tattooing.
About the Author
Nicholas Thomas is Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmiths College, London, and has written widely on art, history and colonialism in the Pacific. His recent books include Oceanic Art (1995) and Possessions : Indigenous Art/Colonial Culture (1999).
Anna Cole is Research Coordinator of the Tatau/Tattoo project at Goldsmiths College. She has published on race and gender in Australia.
Bronwen Douglas is Senior Fellow in Pacific and Asian History at The Australian National University, Canberra. She is the author of Indigenous Presence and the Science of Race.