Su'a Sulu'ape FreeWind has an international reputation for his skill and artistry in tribal tattooing. Moreover, as a Samoan chief, he is sanctioned to perform traditional tatau using the sacred boar's tusk and mallet, or awl and sou-sou. His own tattoos include artwork from all over the world, including Borneo, Samoa, Tahiti and New Zealand as well as the United States.
Su'a FreeWind's passion for tattooing began early. Studying the traditions of his Native American and Mongolian ancestors, he learned that both cultures have a history of ritualistic beliefs or Shamanism. He feels the art of tattoo has helped him grow spiritually and made a huge impact on his personal journey in life.
In his early 20s, he began practicing machine tattooing. Leo Zulueta recognized his shared interest in tribal tattoos and took him under his wing, and together they traveled around the world attending tattoo conventions and studying tribal art. It was on one of these trips that FreeWind met Su'a Sulu'ape Petelo, an elder of the Su'a Sulu'ape family, one of the original families in Samoa to practice tatau. Su'a Petelo became FreeWind's teacher of traditional tattooing.
Soon after their meeting Su'a Petelo adopted FreeWind as his son. Su'a Petelo also gave him the family blessing, one of the highest honors in Samoan culture. This meant Su'a Petelo would pass on to him all he knows about tatau, including symbolism, toolmaking and ceremonies. Su'a FreeWind began his pe'a (the traditional Samoan men's bodysuit) with the most dangerous and painful spot, the blackening of the bellybutton, which is usually done at the end of the tattoo but in special cases done at the beginning as a test of leadership and strength.
Upon receiving the Su'a and Sulu'ape family names and being recognized as a matai, or chief, Su'a Sulu'ape FreeWind adopted his Samoan name as his legal name in his home country. The honor of using the Su'a and Sulu'ape titles is a daily reminder of the responsibility he owes his clients, community and Samoan family. Su'a FreeWind has made a lifelong obligation to preserve the ancient art form of tatau.
He has since mastered the art of Indonesian hand tattooing from the Iban and Dayak tribes. In recognition of his own Native American heritage, he has also researched and re-created Native American hand tattooing techniques. Black Wave Tattoo is the only shop in the world that offers both state-of-the-art machine tattooing, and these several different forms of traditional hand tattooing. Su'a FreeWind has won many international awards for his machine and traditional hand tattoos, and has been featured in documentaries and publications about tattooing.
Seymour Kahiliaulani Kaniho-Lindsey
I was born in Hawaii on Oahu and raised on the big island of Hawaii where I grew up with the history and traditions of my culture. I’ve spent 20 years tattooing and gaining experience, becoming well-versed in all styles. I worked in Alaska for 4 years indulging myself with outside culture and travel experience.
Although I enjoy all styles of tattoos, I specialize in the art and history of the Polynesian islands. I feel blessed to be able to share the spirit and beauty of my culture with the world through art. Being able to design a tattoo that is unique to each client that tells a story about themselves and is still true to Polynesian tradition is what I enjoy the most. Because I am so dedicated to my art and the tradition of my ancestors, I was determined to display it proudly. Not only do I demonstrate it through the designs I give to my clients, but I also fulfilled the long process of receiving and completing my Traditional Samoan Pe’a that was done by Petelo Suluape; this is the ultimate display of tradition and loyalty. Completed with ancient tools, designs and methods that few men can endure, it is one of my proudest accomplishments as a man and as a tattoo artist. It also began my apprenticeship with Petelo Suluape, learning the art of Tatau.
I also had the pleasure of working for a few years with talented artists such as Aisea Toetuu and Steve Looney at Pacific Soul tattoo in the heart of Waikiki. As an owner of a tattoo shop in Hawaii, it was clear that I was part of helping keep my roots alive. With the current media coverage and hype about tattoos I want my clients to know that tattooing is not a trend to me, it is a spiritual process.
Black Wave Tattoo 118 S. La Brea
Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036 (323) 932-1900
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