Sydney Parkinson's illustration of a tattooed Maori from Cook's first voyage.
In case you missed it on the Needles & Sins Facebook group yesterday, Anna Felicity Friedman recently posted a large portion of her tattoo-history dissertation on her wonderful TattooHistorian.com blog about the "Cook myth," which, as she writes, is "the common assumption that modern Western tattooing somehow derived from contact with Polynesian peoples during Captain James Cook's voyages in the late 18th century."
Here's a bit from her writing:
In addition to demonstrating that tattoos were often seen in a positive, or at least neutral, light, a crucial subsidiary aim of this dissertation is to debunk what can be termed the "Cook myth": the perception in many scholarly and popular texts from at least the 1950s that the historical origins of modern tattooing among Westerners exclusively derived from Cook's first voyage to the Pacific and his and his crews' encounters with tattooed people in Tahiti--that Cook, et. al., somehow "discovered" or "reinvigorated" tattooing. But this is clearly not the case. A look at texts from before the mid-eighteenth century demonstrates that many authors, explorers, scientists, etc. were wellfamiliar with the practice of permanently marking the body with a substance embedded underneath the skin. For example, one of Cook's contemporaries, explorer Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu, writing about the Marquesan tattooing he saw in 1791, noted the similarities to and contrasts with the European tattooing that he said was not only common but of great antiquity:Read more, and check the footnotes for additional reference, here.
Onna yu ("Bathhouse Women") by Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815) via Wikipedia.
Last week, a bunch of new outlets worldwide picked up the story that a bathhouse in Hokkaido, Japan refused entry to a Maori woman because of her Moko. As MaoriTelevsion.com notes, the woman, Erana Te Haeata Brewerton, was in Japan to attend an indigenous language conference, "staying with a group of Ainu people indigenous to Japan whose ancestors wore tattoos similar to the traditional chin tattoo."
The tattoo bans at bathhouses throughout Japan are nothing new and not really news to many in our community -- it's almost become a joke to pack a long-sleeved wetsuit when traveling to the country if you want to take a soak. The bans are based on the association of tattoos with the Yakuza crime syndicates, and designed to keep the bad guys out. Indeed, Yakuza are heavily tattooed (and often beautifully so). But so are a lot of people who aren't in the Japanese mafia.
The reason this incident is getting media traction is because Japan was just awarded the right to host the 2020 Olympics, which means a lot more tourists, including the tattooed. At the press conference for the Olympics announcement, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated that "it is important to respect the cultures of foreign countries, considering we will host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and expect many visitors ... to come to Japan."
Perhaps, we won't have to pack our wetsuits after all.
The answers to our survey are flooding in -- I hear you Internet! -- and in crafting this week's tattoo news review, I kept in mind much of your advice and fought everything in me to link Miley Cyrus's tattoo advice [see, no link!]. Instead, I distilled it to the more meaty headlines like tattoo culture in Egypt and India, Maori Moko in fine art, tattoo art designs for vets with prosthetic limbs, and the "Why" question behind our tattoos. I've left most of the fun fluff to the quick and dirty links at the end, but please indulge me in this first item:
The Grilled Cheese Tattoo Promo -- one of the biggest headlines this week, from Cleveland to New Zealand. In essence, a restaurant in Ohio that specializes in variations of grilled cheese meals is offering a 25% lifetime discount to those willing to tattoo their love for the classic sandwich. My gut reaction was mockery, of course, but then I saw the gallery of grilled cheese tattoos -- most tattooed by Eric of Voodoo Monkey Tattoo like the one above. There are so many crazy creative renditions of the meal that I lost all snark in me. My faves: the R2D2 grilled cheese tattoo, the Sacred Heart sandwich, the Hello Kitty version, and the tough and manly Melt Army tattoo. Check the gallery, which also includes the artist credits (a rarity).
Ok, now for more serious news ...
After reading about some market for human tattooed skin, a 28-year-old man in China got a backpiece and then posted an ad to sell his skin for 150,000 yuan ($21,965) to get out of debt. He'll also use part of the money for the skinning and then for new skin grafts. Other than a sad state of mind, his biggest problem is the law: it's illegal in China to buy and sell human organs, and guess what our largest organ is.
In Egypt, tattoos largely mark Coptic Christians even if their national identity cards do not. Tattoos have been a long tradition in their community to ensure Christian burials and, as one tattooist says, "...to identify Christian orphans whose parents had been killed in war...So they wouldn't be brought up as Muslims." I often use Coptic tattoos as an example of how companies can get in trouble when they ban religious tattoos. For Coptic Christians, tattoos play a big role. In one US case, Red Robin Restaurants fired an employee when he would not cover up his small Coptic wrist tattoos. The Equal Employment Commission took up his suit and it settled for a nice sum. Read more about it here. It's a rare case but one employers must be sensitive to.
On the issue of cultural sensitivity, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth with a Maori tattoo on her chin has sparked the ire of Kiwi monarchists and at least one Maori. The artist, Barry Ross Smith, has said "it was meant to be a sensitive depiction of two cultures coming together." I understand how Maori could be offended, especially after the sacred Moko has been appropriated so many times by companies; the best example is Sanro's Hello Kitty Maori. However, in this case, I can see the artist's intention.
Please feel free to weigh in on this issue or any raised here in the comments section.
In India, Mumbai's tattooed Goths lay low as many feel that, even in a more permissive city like Mumbai, they will be discriminated against.
Back in the US ...
The Department of Veteran's Affairs has contracted with the company Global Tattoo Orthotic Prosthetic Innovations to offer custom tattoos on prosthetics and orthopedic braces for vets at VA hospitals and clinics across the US. See a gallery of the artwork here.
This profile on a new tattoo studio/art gallery in Cary, NC has interesting stats on tattooing throughout the state; for example, the number of tattoo businesses in North Carolina spiked 45% in 2009. Also, in NC, every tattoo artist must apply for a permit through their county health department, which each have their own rules and with different permit fees and rules; thus, you'll find some counties with many shops and some with none. Another example of how local laws impact tattoo culture and business.
The SF Examiner talks to Ed Hardy about his art and, yes, trucker hats. I did like this question and his answer:
How do you see your role in the world?The interview is inspired by Ed's art show at San Francisco's Beat Museum, which runs through January 20th. Read his artist statement here.
The San Francisco Chronicle goes to Mom's Body Shop on Haight Street to talk to customers about "the allure of body art." And what is that allure? Well, we don't know because they never really ask the question. Just the standard ones about the pain and how many they have. I'd love for reporters to delve into the "Why" question. Not simply accept answers like, "I got it for my dead grandmother" but the real why we chose to mark these moments or simply beautify ourselves permanently. I always say, "I got it because I like it" but why I like it changes as I get older (as if I'm growing into my tattoos). I'd love to see an in-depth, modern study on it.
Let's leave the philosophy & psych, and shamelessly enjoy some quick-n-dirty links:
The Ta Moko Tatau Tattoo Convention came to an end Sunday night (or Monday morn if you count the after-party) and succeeded in its overriding goal: Kotahitanga, the Maori word for unity. It did so by bring Ta Moko practitioners together with Tatau masters (tufunga ta tatau) as well as tattooists from Europe and Australian working in a variety of styles under one roof -- the America's Cup Boat Sheds in Auckland, New Zealand, which also welcomed tattoo collectors from around the world including one very giddy redhead from Brooklyn.
See reasons for the giddiness in photos here from Day 1 & Day 2.
The weekend was a wonderfully overwhelming learning experience for me, meeting so many people for the first time and hearing their stories about their art and culture. I can go on for a hundred blog pages, but let me break it down to the highlights of the convention:
* On Friday the 13th, a welcome ceremony or Powhiri at Orakei Marae took place to kick off the weekend's show. As the convention celebrated the legacy of tufuga Paulo Sulu'ape, murdered ten years ago, a number of participants went to his grave site, led by his brother Sua Sulu'ape Petelo.
* Saturday, the first official day of the convention, the wonderful S. Mo'o took a break from his hand-tapping tatau and led me by the hand to introduce me to artists I "must meet."
I gotta admit it was a bit intimidating. I spoke to generations of tattoo masters, old school and new school, including Moko practitioners from Mark Kopua to Te Rangitu Netana, and Samoan tufunga from Petelo Sulu'ape to Pat Morrow (who is seen working here).
* Tricia Allen -- tattooist and anthropologist -- helped me with my Polynesian pronunciations and over breakfast, regaled me with stories of her amazing adventures from hitching rides to the islands on whaling vessels to listing the numerous tropical diseases she battled.
Buy her book Tattoo Traditions of Hawaii, the award-winning, definitive book on the subject.
* Sunday highlights are a tie between two most memorable moments for me. The first is watching a beautiful seven-year-old tattoo her father with complete confidence and grace for paparazzi like myself -- see above and Flickr for more photos -- at the Hammerhead tattoo booth. We may have been looking at the next Filip Leu.
* But I had paparazzi of my own as I stood above the crowd on the table of the Corazon Tattoo booth while Jacqueline Spoerle designed, and then tattooed, my tiny elf foot. Jacqueline is an amazing blackwork artist, also featured in my book, with a light hand and great sense of humor. I can't wait to travel to Switzerland for her to do the other, hopefully next year. And yes, foot tattoos hurt. A lot.
As for Sunday's after-party ... a blur.
Now, I'm gonna take my achy paw and rest up before a veeeerrryyy long flight to back to NYC.
Today was the first day of the Ta Moko Tatau Tattoo Convention in Auckland, New Zealand, and as usual, I took my bad point-n-shoots and uploaded pics to Flickr.
See the Day One photos here.
I'll have a proper redux of the show after this weekend because all I can muster right now is ... wow. I'm overwhelmed with the beauty, kindness and spirit of today's convention, and so to spare you my sentimental melodrama, I'll just leave you with the images of the day. More later.