Aug201407
Cedric Arnold's "Yantra: The Sacred Ink"
05:29 PM
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cedric arnold yantra3.jpgSince the inception of this blog, I have shared posts on Sak Yant or Yantra tattoos -- sacred marks performed by monks in Thailand in which the wearers believe that the tattoos are imbued with magic, offering protection and even bestowing certain powers. Yantra tattoos hold a special fascination for me, not just for the beautiful iconography, but the ceremony, culture and beliefs that surround them.

Every year,
at the Buddhist temple in Wat Bang Phra, about 30 miles west of Bangkok, Thailand, devotees gather to receive these magic tattoos at the Wai Khru ceremony. Also present are journalists and photographers seeking to document it all.

One such photographer who has truly captured the power of Yantra and the Wai Khru is French/British photographer Cedric Arnold, who is based in Bangkok. Arnold's "Yantra: The Sacred Ink"  is an exceptionally beautiful series of portraits and documentary photography -- a product of four and a half years of travel throughout Thailand to fully explore Yantra, from the festivals to rare tattoos only found in certain regions. Arnold shared with Slate magazine some of what he learned in this journey:

"The ink is traditional Chinese ink but there's ash, snake venom, all sorts of things," Arnold said. "It's very much a voodoo mix, sort of a witches' brew in a way. There are some really wild rumors about certain tattoo masters who have all sorts of crazy things in there. One liquid people describe as corps oil, harvested from dead bodies."

Getting access to this world involved overcoming one special hurdle.

"If you're not tattooed yourself in certain tattoo worlds, people will be very suspicious and not let you in. I explained this was a personal project, and I wanted to understand things. When they asked me why I didn't have tattoos, I said, 'I don't belong to this belief system, so I think it would be disrespectful for me to get one.' "

You can also read more about "Yantra: The Sacred Ink" in this Boat Mag Q&A.

Arnold further captured the tattoos and ceremonies on video: his film, also entitled "Yantra: The Sacred Ink," is currently being screened at the "Tatoueurs, tatoues" exhibit at the Museum du quai Branly in Paris. [For a great review of the exhibit, read Serinde's post here.] Here's the teaser below.

See more of Arnold's work on his site and on Facebook.


'Yantra: The Sacred Ink' Teaser from Cedric Arnold on Vimeo.



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