Hand-Tapped Samoan Tattoo Experience


Procedural photos continue after the break.

Abacrombie sent in these shots of a truly old-school tattoo experience at the home of Petelo Sula’Ape, a tattoo artist from Faleasiu, Samoa. The tattoo was done over about eight painful hours of tattooing in a single day. Several assistants helped by stretching the skin as Petelo hammered the tattoo in place using traditional tools in his open-air home — which was a good on account of all the smoking!






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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

35 thoughts on “Hand-Tapped Samoan Tattoo Experience

  1. it turned out really beautifully – absolutely amazing.

    and he has really well-groomed armpit hair!

  2. ha. I like that in the last picture when the man is spraying him down, he’s got a look of pure bliss.

  3. oh my goodness this is wonderful. i cannot express how much joy it brought me to look at those pictures. it’s an incredible piece, it looks so intense yet at the same time so completely natural. and the experience mustve been crazy..

  4. Yeah that last photo of him being sprayed does look like pure bliss. I remember when I had my ears done four times through the cartilage on each ear with the gun after, being sprayed was the greatest feeling on earth. I now have captive bead rings through all 18 of my ear piercings, I’ve been wondering if I should send in a photo but I don’t think it’s extreme enough. Any thoughts?

  5. Really nice work. I am hoping to get some hand poked work done this spring on my leg. It should be fun.

    to #1, I was thinking of The Tattooist as well. :)

  6. I had a pe’a done by Petelo and it was tough going. There was a bloody chicken nesting in a box in the roof of the Fale and all the local schoolkids came to point at my pasty white arse.

    He had a white American woman working as an apprentice and over zealous Samoan cultural enforcer who dedicated a lot of her time to giving me unwanted lectures.

    Great tattoo though, one day I’ll get it finished.

  7. Owww dude right in the armpit!

    Looks awesome though, must have been an amazing experience.

  8. I am lovin’ these super frequent updates, props on the good work guys.

    Also, I’ve always been curious, does anyone know if these have more staying power than modern techniques?

  9. Pyrex – If anything they’d have less staying power because there might be additional scarring… But really, it makes very little difference assuming they’re using the same ink.

  10. Kirsty (#14): Check out the main page for BME it’s not all about being extreme. if you’ve got a piercing, submit a picture. It might not make modblog but 18 ear piercings is more than enough to get your picture posted.

    Well, once Shannon has managed to work his way through the massive backlog in any case. He’s been a busy dude lately.

  11. I’ve always wanted to have a traditionally done tattoo , but I honestly don’t know if I could handle the pain of getting one THAT big done. HUGE kudos to this guy.

  12. Traditional Samoan tattoo has received some bad press of late in New Zealand, due to a number of serious bad outcomes (down to one tattoo artist in particular) which resulted in serious infections and hospitalization. There is a recent article here:-

    Earlier articles included this one:-

    As you can see from the first article, there are no really effective laws in my country concerning who can and cannot practice tattoo. It’s “Buyer beware”, and do your research!

  13. Hahaha there’s been hardly any bad press in NZ regarding pea and the like! it was seriously like one article which the press didn’t even pick up on.

    there are a shitload of scratchers out here in aotearoa and an even greater number of crappy piercers, but the good guys aren’t hard to find :D

  14. yep original_sly is right.. that one article is all you are going to find. Awesome tattoos shame about the cigarettes though :)

  15. WOW, was searching for some Samoan tattoos and ended up finding myself! Thank you all for the lovely comments!

    here’s a small video clip of it being done: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50J5kHIt97o

    That tapping sound really sticks to your head, back at the hotel the geckos taunted me making the same sound as Petelo :(

    I was thinking about watching The Tattooist when I was in Auckland a few months earlier but didn’t have the time, instead I saw it on the plane after I had the tattoo done. It brought back sweet memories :)

    Special thank to cyber_android and Bastiodon ;) :hugs:


  16. seriously much respect mate. Im Samoan and that tapping sound even gives me the shivers haha nice work bro.

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