Today through Saturday, Dr. Ink Tattoo in Myrtle Beach will host preeminent traditional Samoan/Polynesian Tatau (tattoo) Master, Pili Mo’o – on a whistle stop here kicking off his U.S.A. Summer Tatau Tour, which includes visits to shops and expos in Atlanta, Boston, New Jersey and New York.
Winner of more than 80 international awards, Mo’o was the final protégé of legendary Tufunga (master) Sua Sulu’ape Paulo II, who took Mo’o under his wing, imparting all aspects of this discipline for five years. According to his Web site [ www.moo-tatau.com], “[Paulo II] taught him not only how to use the traditional tools, but how to build them, and the philosophy of what he used to call ‘His Way of Life.’ He gave Mo’o the deepest spirit of this philosophy until his tragic end in 1999. Transforming Mo’o as his ‘last pupil,’ making him the keeper of the tools and philosophy, he asked him to continue the way he opened.”
Amir Marziparo of Dr. Ink Tattoos [ www.drpiercingtattoos.com] says that the word tattoo comes from the Samoan word tatau, which means “to tap.”
“We want to bring the art of traditional tatau into Myrtle Beach,” he says. “It is an experience that most individuals in the tattoo world have never been fortunate enough to experience. Mo’o will be coming to our shop with his boar’s tooth comb (au) and tapping mallet (sausau) and tapping away in a unique and traditional style. This event is a way for those who are passionate about the art to receive something deep, symbolic, and personal. Each individual will receive something designed specifically for them and no two people will ever have the same creation.”
This will be Mo’o’s first visit to the Grand Strand, and Marziparo says he heard about him through a mutual friend, Miguel Valentin of Karma Tattoo. “We were always intrigued and interested in the tradition of tatau and we agreed that it would be a great opportunity to bring it to Myrtle Beach so we could introduce it to others who shared a love for the art. We cannot begin to explain how much we appreciate him taking the trip to our shop to share this experience with us.” Mo’o resides in the Canary Islands.
Marziparo has noticed a buzz within the tattoo community. “Everyone who has heard about this seems intrigued and cannot wait to see what the hype is all about. We know they will not be let down. Most individuals who are into the Polynesian style of work never thought that they would have the opportunity to get work done the old school-traditional way, so those who appreciate the preservation of the tradition and the philosophy behind it cannot wait to bring it to Myrtle Beach for the first time ever.”
Valentin met Mo’o more than five years ago, and continues to stay in touch.
“He was guest spotting at a shop that I was working at,” he says. “It was a great experience – the first time I had ever had any experience with Polynesian stuff.” Valentin adds that one of the main artists at the aforementioned shop was getting some extensive work done my Mo’o. “We were all there in a power circle kind of thing – supporting him. It was amazing because he went into this trance for at least an hour-and-a-half. It was amazing.”
Valentin had some of Mo’o’s work done on his neck – and says the process is very spiritual.
“He’s a traditionalist, but he is also a ground-breaker in his style because he is making his own marks,” he says. “That’s what he did for me. I have this fascination with butterflies – the whole transformation from a caterpillar into a butterfly. I expressed what I saw in my mind’s eye and he brought it to life. Now I have my butterfly on my neck.” He plans on getting additional work done by Mo’o while he is here.
Says Marziparo: “Everyone at Dr. Ink and Dr. Piercing plans to get work done by Mo’o. Many other artists on Seaboard Street plan to come to our shop and get work done as well. We are all very excited since this is something we are very passionate about.”
Mo’o says he is looking forward to sharing tatau here, making it known to the local community and spreading some seed for future visits. “It was an opportunity that my friend Miguel proposed to me and I wanted to see this place that everyone talks about,” he says.
Marziparo has great expectations for the event, and at press time, there was only space left on Mo’o’s schedule for one large piece or two small ones.