Lars Krutak's TEDx The Cultural Heritage of Tattooing
"Lars Krutak with U'tan'Ke, a Macham Naga warrior and tiger hunter living in Myanmar." (Photo courtesy Lars Krutak)
Jemy Kaiabi applying a name glyph tattoo on the arm of his client Silvana, Xingu National Park, Brazil. (Photo copyright Lars Krutak)
"Bianca Gutierrez and Irene Mangon display traditional motifs related to the Philippine tattoo revival. Artwork by Elle and Zel Festin." (Photo copyright Lars Krutak)
Our favorite tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak offered a must-see TEDxYYC talk entitled "The Cultural Heritage of Tattooing" (embedded below), in which he explores tattoo practices and meanings amongst the world's indigenous cultures, with some fantastic images and video as well. I particularly enjoyed when he discussed his own experiences in having many of these practices performed on him. In watching the video, you'll not only learn about tattooing in various cultures around the world, but also about the revival of tattooing in many of these cultures in which tattooing was suppressed by missionaries and governments, forced relocation of indigenous tribes, disease, and even school systems where children were stripped away of their cultural identity in order to "assimilate."
These stories of revival are pretty wonderful, especially that of 96-year-old Whang Od, perhaps the world's oldest active tattoo artist, who continues to apply Kalinga tattoos in the Cordillera Mountains of the Philippines. In fact, there are tons of great stories in this 16-minute talk, with too much tattoo goodness to describe here, so check it for yourself.
Also, last week, Smithsonian Science News published a Q&A with Lars. Here's a taste from that talk:
A common myth that continues to be perpetuated in popular and academic peer-reviewed publications is that tribal tattoos were ornamental. Some indigenous peoples did receive tattoos to enhance their physical appearance, but this practice was the exception rather than the rule. Most tattoos identified tribal designation, related the social accomplishments of the individuals who wore them or functioned as medicinal therapy or as apotropaic [evil-repelling] symbols. In short, I see body marking as a kind of biographical language.In the Q&A, Lars is also asked what most surprised him in his research for his book Tattoo Traditions of Native North America, to which he explained that "nearly every culture indigenous to North America practiced some form of tattooing, and in many cases it had a perceived therapeutic value."
Anytime I watch or read anything about Lars' work, I always come away learning something new, and I'm sure you will as well.
Also read more of Lars' writing on his website.