The revival of ttraditional tattoo in Tahiti began in 1981 when Tavana, a previous resident of Hawai’i and Waikiki nightclub owner, and a young Marquesan dancer named Teve, went to Germany to research traditional tattoo designs. On their return trip they stopped in Samoa, as
Samoa is the only island group within Polynesia that kept the art of the traditional tatau alive. Arrangements were made for a Samoan tattooist to visit Tahiti, where Teve would receive the full-body traditional tatau done in the Marquesan style, and Tavana would be tattooed with Tahitian designs.
Both Teve and Tavana were tattooed using traditional Samoan tools techniques. Teve’s design was copied from one of the earliest records of Marquesan tattooing, an illustration from the journals of Krusenstern, a Captain on the first Russian voyage around the world in 1803-5. Tavana’s tattoos were inspired by the descriptions and illustrations of Tahitian tattooing recorded by the early observers. Through Tavana’s efforts in bringing the Samoan tattooist to Tahiti, the traditional tattoo was reintroduced into Tahitian culture. In 1982 at the annual Baistille Day festivities in Tahiti, three Samoans demonstrated traditional tattooing. Having seen the Samoan technique, several Tahitian artists were able construct tools and revive the Tahitian form of the art. In 1983-5 there were two demostrations at the fete; the Samoans demonstrating their style and three Tahitians who had learned the art of traditional tatau.