"Tribal style" tattooing can mean any of a number of established styles for permanently marking the body. Most commonly, all these styles are primarily monochrome, being black and skin tone in nature. A lot of the inspiration for modern tribal tattooing can be found in the traditional designs of the Pacifc Rim and Southeast Asia. Ritual tattooing was found throughout island cultures, most all created with elaborate hand techniques evolving, producing designs of surprising complexity and graphic boldness.
Tattoos from Paradise: Traditional Polynesian Patterns
by Mark Blackburn
208 pp hardcover
With lots of images and history, Blackburn breaks down the umbrella term "Polynesian" into seven cultural subgroups, and then explores the unique tattoo culture of each. Can you tell your Hawaiian tattoos from Tahitian ones? Includes a lot of the cultural context surrounding ritual tattoo practices. Excellent photography and illustration. If you are interested in traditional Samoan tattooing, such as Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson had done for a whole half-sleeve recently, this would be the book to get!
What many people think of as modern tribal tattoo designs are based on work worn by the Dyak tribespeople of Borneo. It was the loan of a notebook of this work, to LA artist Leo Zulueta by Ed Hardy, which seems to be the root action for the modern tribal tattoo movement. Zulueta's reinterpretation of various elements of traditional Borenon designs caught on quickly in the punk and music scenes of the early 1990s, and was quickly adopted and imitated across the tattoo world. Whereas the art forms have been preserved somewhat, the history and meaning behind many of these symbols is unknown to the Western culture that now sports them.
by Gian Paolo Barbieri
126 pages (hardcover)
This book is beautiful, and I'm not just saying that because it's filled with sparsely clothed Polynesian men, frolicking in the surf and showing their traditional tattoos, but that sure doesn't hurt... Models are posed in pseudo-tribal style, with leaf wreaths and loincloths, which set off the blackwork tattoos simply and effectively.
Moko: Maori Tattoos
by Hans Neleman (photographer)
144 pp hardcover
If you are interested in traditional New Zealand facial tattooing, this is the book! Very traditional designs are shown, along with a more modern group with a heavy Rastafarian influence to their mokos and imagery. Personal comentary from the different subjects is included, enriching the images with statements about what it means to wear moko.