About Tyla Vaeau

Tyla Vaeau is a tatau practitioner with roots in the villages of Salea'aumua, Aleipata and Safune, Savai'i, Samoa. She has been tattooing for nearly 15 years and sees herself continuing in this practice as long as her body allows. 

Over the years she has gathered a wealth of experience and knowledge from both Western institutions and skilled knowledge holders. Tyla holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Art and a Master or Arts in Art History at the University of Auckland. Her masters thesis focuses on Samoan tatau, its history and the ways in which tatau has traveled with the Samoan diaspora. Her thesis is available to read online in the University of Auckland library.

Throughout her schooling and studies tatau was a recurring theme. It was the coming together of art, cultural heritage and community that led Tyla to take up the practice of tatau. In 2009 she began tattooing with machine, after encouragement from family and guidance from the late Roger Ingerton of Roger’s Tatoo Art, Wellington. She has gone on to participate in a number of tattoo festivals locally and internationally. The important learnings, from this participation, supported Tyla’s development as a practitioner and ultimately led her back to her communities, focussing on using her craft as a way to serve our Pasifika peoples. 

Tyla now focuses solely on Samoan and Pasifika tatau. She is currently an apprentice of the ‘au under the teachings of renowned tufuga tatatau Su’a Sulu’ape Alaiva'a Petelo, Samoa. As a Samoan woman, it is significant to be allowed into this space and she aims to contribute to the cultural continuum of tatau with both ta masini and ‘au ta. She says;

“It is an honour to be able to serve our people through tatau. I aim to be a culturally responsible practitioner, caring for our measina and contributing what I can so that this gift, which has been passed down from our ancestors, will in turn continue to take care of generations to come.”