In many indigenous cultures around the world, the ancestral practice of tattooing is dying, and so when I see features like Aljazeera's "Algeria's tattoos: Myths and truths," I have hope that the traditions and the beautiful stories behind them will continue -- and perhaps spark a revival as we have seen with other cultures where tattooing has played a prominent role.
In addition to a great slideshow of the edler generation of the Amazigh, or Berber tribe, there are some personal stories of these tattooed women, which make it a must-read. Here's a taste:
The tattooing practice in particular has ceased for more than half a
century already, with Roqaya's generation the last to be tattooed, in
the 1930s and 40s. Tattoos have been documented throughout the Middle
East and North Africa for thousands of years: painted on Egypt's Tomb of
Seti, noted in the writing of pre-Islamic poet Tarafa Ibn Alabd in what
is now Turkey and in the 1935 anthropological expedition of Winifred
Smeaton in Iraq.
In the Aures Mountains, the tattoos were considered enhancers of
beauty when applied to the face and had therapeutic and healing purposes
- particularly related to fertility - when found elsewhere on the body,
such as above the ankle or on the back of the hand. For men,
traditional tattoos were far less ornamental and served healing
Today, tattooed women say Islam's prohibition of tattooing is the
primary reason for the loss of the tradition, along with changing
perceptions of beauty and the disappearance of the adasiya, a wandering gypsy tattooist.