Monday, December 26, 2011

Tattoo it in!

Even though a lot of cultures and countries look askance at the practice of getting tattooed, tattooing is, in fact, a very ancient practice across the world. If you need proof, you just need to observe, most likely, the forearm of one of your older relatives and you would most likely find a bluish-green etching on them, which would probably be either their own name or that of a patron God or Goddess.

A Maori moko
Even though the cultural significance of tattooing differs across cultures history is evidence that the practice has been extensively followed throughout the world. In fact, not just tattoos but facial tattoos were a strong tradition followed by many ancient tribes. From the tribes of North Africa to the Maoris of New Zealand and tribes in Turkey and Taiwan, facial tattoos have been accepted traditions amongst all these tribes and are usually of great significance. For instance, the facial tattoos of the Maoris called Moko are said to depict their spiritual tattoos and it is believed that much like your fingerprint the facial tattoos of no two people look the same. And amongst the Koita people of Papua New Guinea a girl child received her first tattoo at age 5 which was added to every year till the final V created around her neck indicated that she had reached a marriageable age.

There also appears to be an interesting connection between tattoos and crime from the prison tattoos prevalent in the prisons in the US to the mafia tattoos of Japan which led to tattooing being banned in Japan. The prison tattoos are believed to be an indication of the status of the prisoner and have to be earned. Though considering they’re made with rudimentary machines created in the prison itself they should probably be considered as a mode of punishment in themselves! The vibrant and colourful tattoos of Japan, on the other hand, evolved more as an underground trend amongst the public since the tattooing practices of the mafia there led the ancient art form to be banned by the Government.

But unlike the machines used nowadays most of these traditional techniques involve physically carving out the tattoos on the skin and are a lot more painful. Different tools and techniques are preferred by tattoo artists across the world. Some of these have even disappeared over time due to being incredibly painful to be replaced by more sophisticated methods. However, like most tattoo artists will tell you it’s usually the pain that you will remember long after the tattoo becomes something you’ve gotten used to.  


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