Tribal/Maori Tattoos in Bangkok
Most of you have seen the strange, primitive-looking tattoo markings that celebrities and ordinary folk alike carry with pride on their bodies these days.
Have you ever wondered where they came from? Who created these bizarre designs?
The answer, as some of you may know, is that many of these tattoos have been copied from ancient tribal designs. But what do the mean? And even more to the point, does the wearer know what they mean? Or have they been chosen just because they look ‘cool’?
Does the idea of having a tribal tattoo inked on your body appeal to you? If so, you could do no better than to drop in to see us at All Day Tattoo. Our artists are very experienced in using and adapting ancient tribal designs.
Tribal tattoos are at the very the heart of tattoo history. Ancient tribes from across the globe – Africa, Asia–Pacific, the Americas and northern Europe – all have a rich and ancient heritage of tattooing their faces and bodies with unique markings that date back thousands of years.
Many tribal markings and drawings are still worn in the present day by the descendants of these ancient tribes; and the tribal tattoo artists that ink them are often the direct descendants of those who practiced the art hundreds of years ago.
Tribal markings always have a meaning, usually relating to the culture and religion practiced by the tribe. They might also give the bearer courage and strength, long life and protection from their enemies and evil demons. They can also be a symbol of rank and may mark the bearer out as a leader, or a chief or even tribal royalty.
Many markings, especially in Africa, were often used to identify the wearer as belonging to a specific tribe. In some areas of Africa, this custom is still practiced in the present day, although there moves in certain Nigerian states to ban the practice on children, particularly on their faces.
Maybe these identifying markings were the forerunner of modern day identity cards… or passports…
What do tribal tattoos look like?
As with any tattoo, the answer is they could look like almost anything. But as a rough guide, tribal tattoos often include short lines, circles, or chevrons which are used to create a variety of unique patterns that have specific meanings to the wearer.
Tattoos might contain just a single one of the above elements in a small tattoo, or they can be very complex designs which will include many different elements and are woven together into intricate, unique patterns. There may also use solid bands of black ink, similar to the modern day ‘blackwork tattoos’, which have their roots in tribal designs.
Tribes that gave the world tattoos?
Here are some of them.
First and foremost we must look at Africa, where homo sapien, or ‘man’ himself first originated, some 200,000 years ago.
In Africa, there is evidence of tattoos dating back at least 2,000 years. We find strange symbols of fertility on ancient the Egyptian women; and in more recent history, slaves sent to the Americas were marked with a personal identity in case they tried to escape.
But before and since the slave trade, African tribes have regularly marked the tribal members with permanent signatures; symbols of superstitious power or protection; symbols of tribal rank and even face marks of ‘beauty.’
Due to their dark skins, a practice known as ‘cicatrization’ was used. The skin is cut into a particular pattern and then the wound is rubbed with ash, creating a permanent scar. Very painful…but very effective.
These days, with modern, much less painful techniques, many Africans still wear tribal markings. The higher ranked members of a tribe tend to have more intricate markings and women often have tattoos on their lips and chins which are considered marks of beauty.
A famous tattoo from Africa’s past is the Eye of Horus and was used by ancient Egyptians and has been found in mummified bodies on both men and women. These tattoos afforded protection from evil spirits and social status, and the larger the tattoo, the higher the nobility or rank.
Samoan tattoos are very popular in the modern world, and they have a wide variety of designs, such as the “Marquesan Cross”, ocean swirls and sun rays. There are different designs for men and women and the tattoos are usually inked on the lower parts of the body. One of the main purposes of Samoan tattoos is to give protection from wild animals, both from the land and in the sea.
The Maoris, who live in modern day New Zealand, consider their head as the most sacred part of their bodies, and the Maori face tattoos are well known the world over.
The tattoos head designs are extremely intricate, and it is claimed that no two tattoos are the same. They are noted for their high degree of craftsmanship and the traditional artists use knives and chisels to create shapes and figures on the wearer’s skin. Again, this process is extremely painful and is only given to the elite few and symbolizes rank and prestige.
The Picts, from ancient Britain, wore pagan tattoos long before the spread of Christianity. The word ‘Pict’ actually means ‘painted person.’
Religion influenced later North European tribes, who used the Celtic Cross and Celtic knots. Other ancient Celtic designs include birds and trees, and later, Angel’s wings.
The Iban tribes originate in Sarawak, and also parts of Sabah and West Malaysia. They are famous for their ferocity and headhunting activities and expansion of their territories.
Their tattoo designs can be of plants, animals or even humans, and are believed to extract spiritual energy from the thing being drawn on their bodies. Large floral designs in pitch black ink are the best known and are placed on the back of the shoulder, or chest or legs and are said to take up to eight hours to complete.
Mayan and Aztec tribes
The ancient Mayan tribes are famous for their depictions of wild animals, demons, and ghosts that have been found on pyramid walls as well as tattooed on human skin. Another famous tribal design is the Mayan calendar.
Tribal warriors from the Aztec tribes wear drawings of deities which are supposed to offer protection as well as showing their social status and their warrior victories.
Tribal tattoos in the modern world.
Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, tribal tattoo designs became a huge fad within certain sections of the younger – ‘x-generation’ – particularly in the USA.
The ancient tribal designs were copied for fashion and style accessories and many people had the designs inked on their bodies, without any idea of the original meaning.
Tribal communities across Africa and the islands of Polynesia, The Philippines, Brunei, Hawaii, and Samoa were none too pleased with having their sacred designs ripped off in such a manner.
These days, we in the tattoo industry have learned to co-exist with the tribes that still use ancient and often sacred markings, and when we use them, we do so with respect.
Ethical Tattoo studios will make sure that the wearer understands the significance and meaning of the tribal markings and that they are not just slapped on customers’ bodies in a flippant or disrespectful manner.
At All Day Tattoo, our artists have a wide-ranging knowledge of tribal tattoos, their uses, and their meanings. We can work with you to come up with a unique design that contains elements of traditional tribal markings but still respects the tribal source and get you a great looking tribal tattoo in Bangkok.
If you have seen a tribal design that appeals to you, or you would like some inspiration, come and chat with us at All Day Tattoo. We will give you our honest views on what will work on your body, and where we can place it to make it look really great.
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