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The Art Form of Tattooing

By Edited Oct 16, 2016 0 0

The symbolism behind permanently marking the skin is produced by some unique and very distinct practices. When we think of body modification, we immediately connect the concept with piercings and the art of tattooing in the western world. Tattooing has literally been practiced around the world for centuries. This practice dates back to the Neolithic and Paleolithic era. These markings have been found on mummies from Ancient Egypt and Ukok Plateau in Siberia. Even during the pre-Christian era, Celtic tribes and the Picts bore tattoos marked with dark blue tones of color. Tattooing was originally brought to the western culture by the Europeans. Tatau originated in Polynesia and was popular among the eighteenth century explorers. European sailors discovered this art form and it grew in popularity among them, before spreading to the western world. Tatau was later changed to Tattoo to conform to English phonology.

Michael Diederich

Tattooing that is practiced in western culture involves marking the skin with indelible ink to change its pigmentation for decorative purposes. People tattoo themselves for many reasons. Some tattoos are for decoration, whereas, others are for identification. Some tats may symbolize their love for someone here or gone, or they may depict their beliefs. Some tattoos represent rites of passage or affiliations to a specific group such as the military, or less desirable, a criminal gang. Others have devotional or spiritual connotations. Some women use tattooing for cosmetic reasons. Permanent eyeliner, lip liner, and the enhancement of eyebrows are a common practice here. Others use this process to hide flaws in the skin and to add beauty moles. Medical tattooing is utilized in reconstructive surgery and instrument placement identification. Whatever the reason we get tattoos, it is for our personal satisfaction. It is an evolving art form that utilizes bold as well as subtle fine coloring. There are many themes and styles and pigments nowadays to choose from. Our tattoos are only limited by our imagination, but it is not the only way to express ourselves. Tattooing with scarification can make an interesting canvas.

The art of Ta moko is a form of utilizing pigmentation with scarification. Ta moko originates with the Maori people from New Zealand. In this practice the skin is carved by uhi or chisels to produce furrows in the dermis. Tohunga-ta-moko (moko specialists) used albatross bones of various sizes that had been shaped with mallets, to produce their instruments. Their pigments were derived from burnt timbers and soot from the Kauri gum mixed with fat to make their dyes. They used the tattoos to denote elite social classes from the poor, and for the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. This art form fell out of practice in the 1860's, however there has been a resurgence of moko since the 1990's.

There is another form of skin marking known as cicatrix. This is call cicatrisation or scarification. This tattoo consist of a white scar that is smooth on the surface. This tattoo is more apparent on darker skinned people. It has been found on mummies in ancient Egypt. The pattern was placed around the pubic area and above the legs. It represented protection of the fetus. It was also utilized in the pre-colonial Filipino warrior to connote status. Originally, the Greek word eschora meant fireplace. Often children gathered around the fireplace and would sometimes get burned. This created a scar. In Italy the word became cicatrix. It was not the only form of scarification.

The last form is not widely used anymore. Keloid markings were used mostly by primitive people. To produce the markings, a healing wound would be re-opened and irrigated over and over to raise a scar higher and higher. This would leave a raised sometimes ugly marking. Although painful, this is still practiced today in the Sudan and New Guinea.



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