Kākau Ancient Art Of Hawaiian Tattoo

Born out of Polynesia, the ancient form of tattooing known as kākau and kā uhi, is as sacred to the Hawaiian people as hula, lei making and surfing.

Traditional Kākau, Kā Uhi is an art that was nearly lost to Hawaiians, but many thanks to Hawaiian men Keone Nunes, Keliʻiokalani Mākua and a few others like them who possess the desire, perseverance to learn, practice and teach the ancient craft has been a critical determiner of its survival and resurgence in today’s Hawaiian heritage & culture.

Kākauana ka uhi. Kākau uhi is the term used for the practice and tradition of Hawaiian tattooing that uses hand-tapping tools made from natural material.

The word Kākau (or tatau) in actuality means to be placed upon and struck. Ka Uhi describes the marks left behind, the ink results of the tapping. The word “tattoo” comes from the root word “tatau.” It was taken back to Europe by European sailors who sailed the Pacific Seas. Instead of saying tatau or kākau they pronounced it “tattoo.”