Samoa: Female Tattoos

The term “malu” signifies a Samoan woman that receives any traditional markings. There are profound differences between male and female traditional tattoos and how they are acquired. The decision to get tattooed is optional for women, whereas for men it is a mandatory practice. Patterns for women are smaller in size, less intricate and limited to certain markings. Geometrical flower patterns are quite common. Designs are less extensive and etched onto the backs of the thighs, knees, and in some cases on the woman’s hands. A hand tattoo or “Lima” required a woman to serve Kava (a beverage made from roots of the kava shrub) during ceremonies and other occasions. Among Samoan culture, this was considered to be one of the greatest honors a woman could receive. The meaning behind traditional tattoos is no different and still represents one’s social status.