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Sulu'ape Pili Mo'o

Posted by NĀ KOA

Sulu'ape Pili Mo'o, known as Mo'o by his friends

Mo'o started tattooing at the beginning of the 90's when he learned the meaning of the Marquesan symbolism thanks to Chime, the well known tattooer of Moorea. 

Mo'o stayed with Chime for a few years, then moved to Madrid and joined the famous "Terror Tattoo Crew" studio of Mao & Cathy. There he learned how to use a tattoo machine correctly from Mao, and tattooed "pretty much nonstop" in his now characteristic black ink style for six years and was awarded with international awards.

During this time, Mo'o met the world famous Samoan Tatau Master Sua Sulu'ape Paulo II known as "The master of the Masters".  For Mo'o, he meant even more - he turned out to be "The One who will change his life radically." 

The Master took him under his wing. For almost 5 years Mo'o learned from him not just how to use the traditional tatau tools, but also how to build them.  Sua Sulu'ape Paulo II also taught Mo'o the Philosophy of what he used to call "His Way of Life", giving him the "deep Spirit".

In this time, Sua Sulu'ape Paulo II bestowed on Mo'o the responsibility to continue the international awareness of Samoan tatau that the Master had opened.  It became Mo'o's duty to accept the invitations of tattoo conventions as much as he could, in order to keeping the ancestral art alive and spreading it all over the world.

The Master made Mo'o the keeper of his tools and philosophy, and asked him to change his name to Mo'o as in "Pili Mo'o" - the "Samoan Lizard".

Their friendship and Master-Apprentice time came to an abrupt end with the Master's tragic end in 1999. Sua Sulu'ape Paulo II had transformed Mo'o, who was his last pupil.

Since then Pili Mo'o has not failed in his promise to his Master and "Father". He has  defended the Spirit of his "Father's Way of Life", which had now become his own with fervor and faith. 

He has attended more than 300 tattoo conventions all over the world, disclosing the art of Tatau, delighting the public with it on 5 continents, giving seminars, and receiving numerous awards for his art. 

In 2011, Sua Sulu'ape A.Petelo, now chief of the Suluape Family, called Pili Mo'o to Samoa to receive the title of "te Tufunga ta Tatau Suluape Pili Mo'o", which is to accepted and recognized as a Samoan Matai and Tatau master. 

When he isn't traveling to tattoo across the world, Mo'o can often be found on Maui or Tenerife. 

Contact him at or email