This is a lose English translation of the Tatau song as chanted by the twin sisters Taema and Tilafaiga depicted in the popular legend.

This is the known origin
Of the tattooing of the tatau in Samoa
A journey by two maidens
Who swam from Fiji across the open sea
They brought the tattooing kit
And recited their unchanging chant
That said women were to be tattooed
But men were not to be tattooed
Thus the reason why men are now tattooed
Is because of the confusion of the maidens’ chant
Arriving at the coast of Falealupo
They spotted a giant clam
As the maidens dived
Their chant was reversed
To say that men were to be tattooed
And not women
Pity the youth now lying
While the tufuga starts
Alas he is crying loudly
As the tattooing tool cuts all over
Young fellow, young fellow, be brave
This is the sport of male heirs
Despite the enormous pain
Afterwards you will swell with pride
Of all the countries in the Pacific
Samoa is the most famous
The sogaimiti walking towards you
With his fa’aila glistening
Curved lines, motifs like ali
Like centipedes, combs like wild bananas
Like sigano and spearheads
The greatest in the whole world

It is also the song sung while an individual is being tattooed. Here is the Samoan translation of the song.

O le vi’i o le tatau Samoa

O le mafuaaga lenei ua iloa
O le taaga o le tatau i Samoa
O le malaga a teine to’alua
Na feausi mai Fiti le vasa loloa
Na la aumai ai o le atoau
ma sia la pese e tutumau
Fai mai e tata o fafine
Ae le tata o tane
A o le ala ua tata ai tane
Ina ua sese sia la pese
Taunuu i gatai o Falealupo
Ua vaaia loa o se faisua ua tele
Totofu loa lava o fafine
Ma ua sui ai sia la pese
Fai mai e tata o tane
Ae le tata o fafine
Talofa i si tama ua taatia
O le tufuga lea ua amatalia
Talofa ua tagi aueue
Ua oti’otisolo le au tapulutele
Sole Sole, ai loto tele
O le taaloga a tama tane
E ui lava ina tiga tele
Ae mulimuli ana ua a fefete
O atu motu uma o le Pasefika
Ua sili Samoa le ta’taua
O le soga’imiti ua savalivali mai
Ua fepulafi mai ana faaila
Aso faaifo, faamulialiao
Faaatualoa, selu faalaufao
O le sigano faapea faaulutao
Ua ova i le vasalaolao



The attainment and right to practice the art of the tatau

There has only been one prevailing version of the Tatau legend that has been passed down through generations. Other variations or accurate historical accounts of this myth are yet to be academically verified. In the Samoan culture, the Fa’alupega or the naming of chiefly titles is a vital part of an individuals identity, collective sense of belonging and worldview. To know one’s fa’alupega or genealogy is their connection to the land and origins of their past.

My parents both hail from the opposite sides of a large district village called Falelatai in Upolu, Samoa. The elder generation who are much wiser, knowledgeable and intuitive are aware that many of the remarkable myths and legends throughout history that depict demigods and royalty originate from Falelatai. My village fa’alupega or version of the Tatau legend is not something that I take lightly in openly sharing. As this is a treasured heirloom story that should be kept exclusively as family knowledge. However, I am willing to provide some context surrounding my family and village connection in attaining and practising the art of the tatau. Also, safeguard and withhold some intricate details by only purposely revealing the general names of paramount titles concerning this version.

My name Falefitu translates into ‘The House of Seven’ which represents the seven highly respected paramount titles of my family and the broader village community of Falelatai. In no particular order, these seven titles are Taefu, Misa, Sila, Nanai, Anae, Faalavaau and Tagomoa. In the past, my name was once ‘Falefitu o le Ati a Tagaloa’ which later in history changed to the current name ‘Falefitu O le Aiga Tauaana’. However, there is another prominent chief title that although is not mentioned amongst these seven titles, also plays a substantial part in the history of Falelatai. This paramount chief named Fasavalu had a daughter by the name of Sinalalofutu. She and Ulufanusese’e had two children who were Siamese twins known as Taema and Tilafaiga.

We believe that these sisters are the sole owners of the Tatau and retrieved the sacred basket consisting of the traditional tatau tapping tools from an ancient place that no longer exists today. It is contrary to the popular legend that states that the tatau was initially from Fiji, but the Falelatai version portrays the sisters retrieving this from the ancient place called Fitiuta in Folau. My fathers Fa’alupega depicts the attainment of the tatau while my mother’s genealogy depicts the right to practice it. Furthermore, my mother’s father Sila Ioane I Taito Pale and the grandmaster Su’a Sulu’ape Paulo II are first cousins as their grandmothers are sisters who are the children of Siaana. Therefore, there are other details to this version that I will not disclose, but this brief explanation sums up my family and village connection to the Legend.