Credit: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Eurac/Samadelli/Staschitz.
One of the biggest recent tattoo news stories was about an ancient man and a new discovery about his tattoos. In the excellent report, "Scan finds new tattoos on 5300-year-old Iceman," Aaron Deter-Wolf discusses how a new examination of Otzi the Iceman found a previously unrecorded group of tattoos consisting of "four parallel lines between 20 and 25 mm long and are invisible to the naked eye," which researchers have added to complete the catalog of all of Otzi's tattoos. As Aaron notes, "While the different combinations of lines in Otzi's tattoos may have held some underlying symbolic meaning, it appears that their function was primarily medicinal or therapeutic." Further to this, he discusses Dr. Lars Krutak's writings on Otzi:
In his 2012 book Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification, anthropologist Dr. Lars Krutak documents an experiment in which Colin Dale of Skin & Bone Tattoo in Copenhagen determined that hand-poked tattoos applied to acupuncture points using a bone needle "could produce a sustained therapeutic effect," successfully relieving ailments such as rheumatism, tinnitus, and headaches. [...]Read Aaron's article here.
For more on tattoo history, there's a piece recently published, entitled "The Last Tattooed Women of Kobane," which explores the stories behind photojournalist Jodi Hilton's portraits of women from Kobane, Syria, (shown above) and their regional facial tattoos called "deq." It's a fascinating Q&A. Here's a taste:
Many women reported being tattooed by a "nomad" or a "gypsy woman," and these traveling tattoo artists may well have dispersed the tradition. But some of the designs are unique, possibly referring to pre-Islamic religions that are, in some way, still in the hearts of some Kurdish people.See more of Jodi's portraits and read her story here.
I found it fitting, on this Holocaust Remembrance Day, to share the story of Auschwitz survivor Elie Buzyn and his reflections on the prison number tattoo he received at the hands of the Nazis 70 years ago. He told EuroNews:
"To me, this number was my parents' grave stone. You do not walk around with your grandparents' or parents' grave stone on your back to show 'look, I had my father, my mother, they died here, here is the stone!' For me, symbolically, that's what it was. "And so I decided to take it off, to take it off, but only if I could keep it."Cosmopolitan mag posted on a beautiful, tear-inducing video (below) featuring Freedom Tattoo, a program in Poland that helps women who were once incarcerated cover their prison tattoos with more artful ones. As one women says, after replacing her crude handpoked work with beautiful roses, "I am a woman. Now I can take another step, and this is fantastic because now I don't have to be locked up anymore in that gray world that held me back." The video made me cry, but I highly recommend taking a look as a reminder at how wonderfully transformative tattoos can be.
The recent tattoo headlines had some interesting coverage, from conventions to tattoo cultures in South Korea, Turkey & Iraq, and much more. Here's the rundown:
I admit, I was pretty jealous when my friends' social media feeds were filled with fun pics from the DC Tattoo Expo, and even more so when photos also came up in my tattoo news alerts from the press. DCist.com had the most extensive slideshow from the event, capturing the scene from the floor as well as the tattoo and pin-up contests. The Washington Post particularly focused its coverage on the "My Tattoo F'n Sucks Award" portion of the contests, and although only one regrettable tattoo competed for the award, it was enough to pass along the lesson that you get what you pay for, especially with tattoos. Then there was ABC News, which skipped hiring a photographer and just swiped Instagram photos tagged #DCtattooexpo for their article. But their "social gallery" did offer some unique perspectives from the show, so that's worth a look.
Surprisingly, there wasn't too much photographed or written about of the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival show this past weekend, but The Statesman has a few good shots and there's some short video footage from Keye TV, which is meh. Better to check the #txrevival hashtag on Instagram for more.
And Rio's Tattoo Week was repped with a few pics in the Sacramento Bee. It's interesting to see just how much tattoo conventions have in common all over the world.
Beyond conventions, there were headlines that explored tattoo culture in countries with still many obstacles to the art form. For one, the AFP's piece entitled "South Korea's outlaw tattoo artists starting to find a mainstream niche," found its way in a lot of publications with its interesting look at how the laws of South Korea are not keeping up the greater acceptance of tattoos in the country. Here's a bit from that:
Tattooing itself is not illegal in South Korea, but the law states that it can only be carried out by a licensed medical doctor.NPR had a similar story about changing attitudes in Cuba and the law concerning tattoos, with the following:
Tattoos have long been taboo in Cuba, but the recent emergence of a large-scale distinctly Cuban tattoo culture is a vivid example of cultural change . As recently as a few years ago, tattooed Cubans were not permitted on beaches and there are unofficial rules against employing tattooed people. Tattooed Cubans reportedly can't work in the airport.Some older articles from the previous week are also worth checking for a glimpse into tattoo culture around the world, such as: "Turkey issues fatwa against tattoos: Remove or repent" and "In Iraq, ex-interpreter makes his mark as tattoo artist."
And my personal favorite tattoo story of the past week is that of the kickass tattoo of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Nikki Lugo, shown below. I only wish I had gotten it first!
Feel free to share your thoughts on the news in our Facebook group or Tweet at me.
Photos by Uriel Sinai.
Yesterday's The New York Times featured the article "Proudly Bearing Elders' Scars, Their Skin Says 'Never Forget'", which talks about Holocaust survivor families getting tattoos of the numbers etched into the chests and forearms of their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who were prisoners at the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps. The families do so as a way to honor their elders and also to remind others of the atrocities. This method of doing so has caused some of controversy.
The Times article is inspired by the documentary "Numbered," directed by photojournalist Uriel Sinai and Dana Doron (a doctor and daughter of a survivor) who interviewed 50 tattooed survivors. These survivors discuss their horrific experiences and what they carry with them, beyond the numbers in their skin. Their descendants who seek to keep their stories alive through their memorial tattoos face strong reactions, particularly by those who feel that wearing a "scar" or a mark that dehumanized people should not be a form of Holocaust remembrance.
The article describes the experience of 21-year-old Eli Sagir who got her grandfather's number on her forearm:
Ms. Sagir, a cashier at a minimarket in the heart of touristy Jerusalem, said she is asked about the number 10 times a day. There was one man who called her "pathetic," saying of her grandfather, "You're trying to be him and take his suffering." And there was a police officer who said, "God creates the forgetfulness so we can forget," Ms. Sagir recalled. "I told her, 'Because of people like you who want to forget this, we will have it again.'"Another reaction is the misconception that one cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery if tattooed. [Read Craig Dershowitz's post on tattoos and Judaism here.] Then there are those who just find it "tacky," as I read in comments on the article.
What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section to this post on our Needles & Sins Syndicate group page.
"Numbered" premiers in the US at the Chicago International Film Festival next month. Here's a clip below.
Yom Hashoah means the "Day of Devastation." It is the powerful and all too literal name by which the Holocaust is remembered in Israel and elsewhere within the Jewish Diaspora.
Regardless of the many ways that the Jewish community has chosen to deal with this personal devastation and the even more ways by which the world has attempted to understand it, it always returns to a very intimate understanding, a scar upon the psyche.
Which makes it appropriate that tattooing has, recently, become an important facet of this conversation. As is well-known, many Jews who were victimized by the Holocaust had identification numbers tattooed (branded, actually) onto their forearms.
Today, many descendants of these victims are considering and, in rare cases, actually getting their parents and grandparents numbers tattooed on their own arm. The reasons vary.
For some, it is similar to a Christian wearing a cross around their neck, taking upon themselves a piece of the burden administered by Jesus. For others, it is simply a reflex of memory. With Holocaust revisionist history gaining popularity and the witnesses to the Devastation passing away, it is a skin-based documentary of a time we wish not to remember but should never forget. Of course, with all things tattoo, the reasons, the logic behind the reasons and the quality with which those reasons are displayed are of subjective value and worth. What is unquestionable, however, is the growing popularity.
First reported in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, in 2008, this article on a son tattooing his father's Auschwitz numbers on his own arm encouraged debate and shock. Since then, the story has been met by many others, and today, the phenomenon is far less shocking, albeit still equally debatable. As the original article says, a Holocaust remembrance tattoo, particular one that mimics the identification numbers, is a delicate interplay between the sensibilities and sensitivities of the victims, those who seek to honor them and the religious community.
It is outside my realm to discuss the actions, motivations and judgments of my peers. Instead, allow me to share my personal story. When I was 19 and, at the time, only sporting one other tattoo, I decided that the weight of the Holocaust was too much to bear internally. I had no outlet for the emotion I suffered. I wrote poetry but none read it. With youthful anger, I could have killed a Nazi with my bare hands, but such an angry fantasy was just that, a fantasy waiting for a Quentin Tarantino movie to give it boundaries. I knew not how to quench my anger nor salve my pain other than to place it somewhere outside of myself.
At the time, I was editing a Holocaust survivor's book and I told the author, Alex Levin, of my idea for a Holocaust memorial tattoo. He was thoughtful and considerate. And, resolute. "Absolutely not," he demanded. "We need no other reminders of that time and place. No." For that day, our interview was over. He became quiet, bowed by knowing that his suffering had found its way, if only minimally, into my own heart. And, perhaps, angry at my heart for being so weak and selfish.
I vowed that day to never get one of these tattoos. Not because I knew it would hurt the living or harm the memory of the dead. But because I did not understand its power and, I know enough to leave alone that which I do not understand.
Tattoo by Jondix of LTW Tattoo in Barcelona, Spain -- one of the many featured artists in my upcoming book on blackwork tattooing due out this Fall. More black tattoo photos to come.
I'm just getting over the food and ouzo orgy that was this past weekend's Greek Easter celebration, a Brooklyn backyard bacchanal where chasing around unsuspecting guests with a lamb tongue on BBQ tongs is not only encouraged but specifically laid out in the Bible, right next to promoting "opposite marriage." [See the gory Greeky pix on Facebook.]
Lucky for me, the news was not as juicy as our giblets, so I didn't have too many headlines to trawl through, but I did catch a few tasty treats on the net. Here goes:
More people are getting medic alert tattoos, prompting the medical community to address the legal and ethical issues behind them. Over the years, I've seen A LOT of Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) tattoos, particularly on people over 70 -- like this fiesty Kiwi who sparked debate worldwide last year over the enforceability of DNR ink. In the US, a mere DNR tattoo generally won't cut it. You need to back up your wishes with a valid DNR Order. Better use of those tattoos would be alerts of serious allergies, pre-existing conditions and even blood type, but hell, the jewelry has been doing a good job at that, so save ya skin for art.
In a reminder of how tattoos were once put to horrific use, Auschwitz camp survivors were reunited Sunday at Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem. The AP reports:
As terrified teenagers 65 years ago, Menachem Sholowicz and Anshel Sieradzki stood in line together in Auschwitz, having serial numbers tattooed on their arms. Sholowicz was B-14594; Sieradzki was B-14595.
This AP photo of the men has also been widely circulating around the Internet.
The small numbers needled in Auschwitz have been some of the greatest modern day symbols, not only serving as reminders of the genocide but also of survival and unity, as shown in the article.
Auschwitz tattoos have also had an impact on modern Jewish culture in relation to young Jews wishing to get artful ink, with the dark stigma carried over (beyond biblical texts on body markings).
For the best discussion on Jews and tattoos, read Craig Dershowitz's interview with Rabbi Henry Harris.
In more news on culture and tattoos, the Isle of Man's Manx Heritage Foundation is photographing people with Manx tattoos for a new promo campaign. The most popular tattoo is the "Three Legs of Man" symbol, which Wikipedia says originates in the legend that the Celtic god Manannan defeated invaders by transforming into the three legs and rolling down the hill.
If only there was as good a story behind the San Jose Shark Man.