Categorized | Education, Entertainment

Tattoo Festival coming to Kohala October 25-28, 2019


Hawi, HAWAI ʻ I, Oct. 9, 2019–The complete schedule for Hawaii’s first Traditional Tattoo Festival has been announced. Held in the district of Kohala Oct. 25-Oct. 28, this four-day event will showcase traditional tattoo rituals and ceremonies of Pacific and Arctic cultures.

The festival begins with an opening celebration at Blue Dragon Tavern & Cosmic Musiquarium, Kawaihae, at 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25. Guests will enjoy live Hawaiian music by Mila, meet-and-greets with visiting traditional tattoo master artists as well as a presentation about the history and significance of traditional tattoo practices. Food and drinks will be prepared by the culinary team at the newly reopened Blue Dragon. Dance music provided by Lorenzo’s Army. The suggested cover is $20, online and at the door.

Saturday, Oct. 26, features a free cultural fair 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Kohala Village HUB, Hawi.  The six-acre HUB campus is set to feature an opening hālau, varied Hawaiian cultural practitioners completing demos within their specialties as well as an all-day film festival that will screen traditional tattoo documentaries shot within Pacific Rim and the Arctic lands and peoples. Food trucks, music, and a mid-day panel presentation completes the day.

Saturday’s schedule is as follows:

  • 9 am Opening Protocol and Hula performed by Unulau and Waikāunu.
  • 9.30 am-12:50 pm Traditional Tattoo Film Festival begins in the HUB barn. Runs consecutively.
  • 9:45 am – Noon Supervised Keiki Zone
  • 9:45 am-3 pm Mural Painting
  • 9:45-10:45 am Rotation 1 Cultural Workshops (Lauhala Weaving, Kapa Making, Wood Carving, Kaula Making)
  • 10:50 am-11:50 am Rotation 2 Cultural Workshops (Lauhala Weaving, Kapa Making, Wood Carving, Kaula Making)
  • Noon-12:50 pm Lunch, Launa, Talk Story with the Artist
  • 1 pm-3 pm Midday Panel and Presentations: Indigienous Culture, Traditional Tattoo and Patterns of the Soul
  • 9:30 am-3 pm Food trucks, film festival and cultural demos will continue throughout day.

The pinnacle event is a two-day symposium beginning at 9 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 27, and concluding at 1 pm, Monday, Oct. 28. The GRACE Center at Kohala Institute, Kapaʻau, will host.  

The platform for this symposium is unique:  In the days leading up to this event, each guest artist will lead a pre-selected traditional tattoo enthusiast and volunteer through the sacred journey of traditional tattoo–from envisioning and purpose to the making of the patterns and marks on the body.

During the symposium, each visiting presenter will then share their insights of traditional tattoo within their culture. The artist and his/her volunteer model will also share the experience of their vision and journey of choosing and creating the individual’s marks and patterns.

Sacred rituals and a Sunday evening fireside gathering with Ê» awa are additionally scheduled.

The symposium continues Monday morning with an opportunity to gather on the lands of the ahupua ʻ a where the symposium takes place. Participants will experience the mana of the lands of King Kamahemaha as well as the powerful cultural traditions unique to Kohala, the district of his birth.  

Master practitioners and master artists include Keone Nunes of Hawaii; Lane Wilcken of the Philippines; Holly Nordlum of Alaska; Cudjuy Patridjes of Taiwan; Julia Gray of Papua New Guinea and Dion Kaszas of Nova Scotia.

In addition, Lars Krutak, a tattoo anthropologist who hosted an acclaimed tattoo documentary series on Discovery channel, will share his experience of traveling the world to research and experience varied art forms of body modification.

Cost of the full symposium package is $250, which includes entry to all festival events, meals during the symposium, a tote, an event booklet as well as 10% off accommodations at the GRACE Center or the Kohala Village INN. A stand-alone two-day pass is $50.

Sponsored by Kohala Institute, the inspiration for the event arises from a desire to illuminate the cultural origins of the tattoo and to honor the original traditions as well as the lineages of visual and cultural artists.

The Traditional Tattoo Festival is a long-held vision and dream of Joël Tan, event organizer, and manager of the GRACE Center at Kohala Institute.

“The festival focuses on inclusivity. We hope to dissolve colonial divisions and reaffirm interrelatedness between indigenous peoples,” Tan says. “Given generations of oppression and cultural suppression across indigenous cultures, we now have a significant need to preserve and share traditional and ancient knowledge.”

For registration and a detailed schedule of events, visit or phone 808.889.5151.

About Kohala Institute, a 501c3 organization:
The mission of Kohala Institute is to inspire the discovery and deepening of human connection through collaboration on behalf of a sustainable world. We nurture connection with the land, universal values, and aloha. 

Kohala Institute is an immersive environment within the ʻ lole ahupua ʻ a. Its GRACE Center campus, with several gathering rooms and 80-person lodging, provides a powerfully neutral setting for intercultural exchanges between masters, students, and enthusiasts. 

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