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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, May 19, 2000

Book makes its
mark on art of tattoo

Bullet "Tattoos From Paradise: Traditional Polynesian Patterns"; by Mark Blackburn (Schiffer Publishing); 208 pages; $69.95

By Greg Ambrose
Special to the Star-Bulletin


EVEN the most obtuse individual has probably noticed the revival of the ancient art of tattooing sweeping through Polynesia.

While many of the enthusiasts have only a skin-deep interest in the inking of their flesh, others seek a connection with their culture and their Polynesian family and forebears.

For all those who lack the scholarly discipline to pursue the historical accounts of the art of tatau, Mark Blackburn has done the difficult research for them. All they need to do is open a copy of "Tattoos From Paradise: Traditional Polynesian Patterns" and be amazed at the artistic talents of the ancient Polynesians.

Blackburn, who has an art gallery and second home in Hawaii, has let his enchantment with all things Polynesian inspire him to acquire an impressive collection of Polynesian art and historical images and writings. In "Tattoos From Paradise," Blackburn shares his incredible trove of historical art and love for Polynesian cultures with readers.

Each chapter selects an island group, such as the Marquesas, and provides a brief but informative essay on that society's history, culture, religious beliefs and the effects of contact with the Western world. This provides a context for an insightful perspective of the social, cultural and religious significance of tattooing to the ancients, an examination that is greatly enhanced by the lavish illustrations and photographs.

"Tattooing From Paradise" is certain to provide insight to anyone who has wondered why people would decorate their flesh, and inspire those who are already enamored of the practice.

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