Unraveling the Cultural Significance of Fijian Tattoos

Meanings of tattoos

Fijian tattooing, also known as “tatau,” is a centuries-old tradition that is deeply rooted in the culture and history of the island nation. From intricate geometric designs to symbolic motifs, Fijian tattoos hold a wealth of meaning and significance for those who wear them. In this article, we will explore the meaning and cultural significance of Fijian tattoos.

History of Fijian Tattooing

Tattooing has been a part of Fijian culture for over 2000 years. The art of tatau was brought to Fiji by Polynesian settlers, and it has since become an integral part of Fijian identity. In the past, tattoos were reserved for warriors, chiefs, and other high-ranking individuals, and they were often used to signify social status, courage, and strength.

Over time, the meaning and significance of Fijian tattoos have evolved, and today, they are often used to symbolize a person’s connection to their culture and heritage. Many Fijians still proudly wear traditional tattoos as a way of expressing their identity and honoring their ancestors.

Design and Symbolism of Fijian Tattoos

Fijian tattoos are known for their intricate geometric designs and bold, black ink. They often feature patterns and motifs that are deeply symbolic and hold great meaning for those who wear them. Some of the most common designs and their meanings include:

  • Shark Teeth: Shark teeth are a common motif in Fijian tattooing, and they represent strength, adaptability, and protection. The teeth are often arranged in a row, symbolizing the power and ferocity of the shark.
  • Tapa Designs: Tapa designs are inspired by traditional Fijian cloth, which is made by beating bark until it becomes a soft, pliable material. Tapa designs often feature intricate geometric patterns and symbolize strength, resilience, and creativity.
  • Frangipani Flowers: Frangipani flowers are a popular motif in Fijian tattooing, and they represent beauty, love, and purity. The flowers are often depicted in bright, bold colors, adding a vibrant touch to traditional Fijian tattoos.
  • Tribal Symbols: Many Fijian tattoos feature tribal symbols, which are often used to represent a person’s family, clan, or village. These symbols are often passed down from generation to generation and hold great significance for those who wear them.

Cultural Significance of Fijian Tattoos

Fijian tattoos hold immense cultural significance for the people of Fiji. They are a symbol of identity, pride, and connection to the past. For many Fijians, getting a traditional tattoo is a rite of passage and a way of honoring their ancestors and cultural heritage.

In addition to their cultural significance, Fijian tattoos also serve as a form of protection. In traditional Fijian culture, it was believed that tattoos could ward off evil spirits and protect the wearer from harm. Today, many Fijians still believe in the protective power of tattoos, and they view them as a way of staying connected to their spiritual roots.


Fijian tattoos are an integral part of the island nation’s rich cultural heritage. From their intricate designs to their deep symbolic meaning, these tattoos serve as a powerful reminder of the strength, resilience, and beauty of Fijian culture. Whether you are a Fijian looking to honor your heritage or simply a tattoo enthusiast interested in exploring the cultural significance of traditional tattoos, Fijian tattooing is a fascinating and meaningful art form that is sure to captivate your imagination.

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