The traditional Hawaiian art of “kākau” (tattooing) all but disappeared in the 1800’s, under missionary influence. However, thanks to writers and artists like P.F. “Ski” Kwiatkowski and Tom O’o Mehau, their imagery and legacy have been preserved for future generations.
Kwiatkowski first self-published “The Hawaiian Tattoo” in 1996. The new edition, by Mutual Publishing Co., Honolulu, revives the popular, readable reference, dwindling copies of which were commanding four-digit prices. Recreated with the same vivid intricacy as the first, the book is now more affordable and available to a wider reach.
Inspired by Bishop Museum resources—drawings of first-contact artists such as Webber, Choris and Arago, skin images of mummified remains, and kapa designs—Kwiatkowski details the history of various tattoo patterns, including deep religious or other significance. Mehau’s distinctive illustrations bring the tattoos, and their stories, to life.
“The Hawaiian Tattoo” may be purchased at Mama’s House Thrift Store or Gallery of Great Things in Waimea, and will be available for sale at the February 16th “Pride in Hawaiian Arts” event at Kahilu Town Hall, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, and visitors can enjoy a variety of cultural artists in two- and three-dimensional media, Hawaiian music and hula. WAG artists, including Mehau, will be on hand to share their works in bone and wood carvings, fine arts, and more.
Waimea Artists’ Guild (WAG) is an association of professional artists whose intent is to produce art and promote education in their community. Part of The Pantry, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, of which WAG and Mama’s House Thrift Store are components. For additional information, contact: Beth or Tom Mehau at The Pantry, 887-2289.