Results tagged “anthropology”

Feb201117
12:55 PM
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Tattoo Anthropologist Dr. Lars Krutak is no stranger here on Needles & Sins. We've linked his articles numerous times, from research on ancient skin sewing rituals to his visiting the oldest tattoo studio in Greece. We've applauded his documentary series for Discovery, Tattoo Hunter, which explores indigenous body modification practices worldwide. And we've listed his latest book, Kalinga Tattoo: Ancient and Modern Expressions of the Tribal, as a holiday gift guide pick.

What we haven't done is look beyond his work and profile Lars himself. This past weekend, The Borneo Post beat us to it. The article discusses his 15+ years researching tribal tattoo traditions and rituals, a number of which he has experienced himself. It focuses particularly on Lars's work in Borneo, as he was recently in Kuching to give a presentation at the Gathering of the Tribes 2011, a cultural expo that brought together international tattooists and tribal performers from across Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo). It's a great read and includes a touching story on his visit to the last Iban tattoo artist, who was dying.

Inspired by the article, I just interviewed Lars myself for Skin & Ink. Of course his many adventures could not possibly fit in a limited word count, so I'm offering some bonus bits from our talk below.

Lars_Kayabi_tattoo.jpgAs a kid, was there any indication that you'd follow the path you're on today? Were you playing archeologist as a child or poured over National Geographics?

Living in Mexico 1979-81, we traveled all over the country and I visited every Maya/Aztec/Zapotec archaeological complex, so I thought I was going to be an archaeologist, especially after "Raiders of the Lost Ark" dropped. It didn't hurt that my parents had a Nat Geo collection with every issue dating back to the early 50s (which I still have), and I took that love of archaeology and anthropology to college. I double majored in anthropology and art history at the University of Colorado at Boulder (1989-1993) and never looked back.

Was your interest in tattoo sparked during your graduate work at Univeristy of Alaska Fairbanks or beforehand?


After undergrad, I chased my (then) girlfriend to San Francisco in 1995 where I landed my first salaried job at Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery that was operated by Paul L. Thiebaud, the son of Pop Artist Wayne Thiebaud. Right around the corner was Don Ed Hardy's Tattoo City in North Beach so I used to peek in the window on my lunch breaks. Also, my good ole buddy Tony Barton (Hell or High Water Tattoos, New Orleans) was starting to tattoo at that time, and this provided the initial awareness and interest in tattoos. I left San Fran in January 1996 to pursue graduate work in Fairbanks, Alaska, and as I was walking across campus during the second week, I met an Inuit woman with tattoos on her chin. I was hooked at that point, wanted to know more, and that's when I became obsessed with documenting tribal tattoos.

What continues to motivate your research after all this time?


The main thing that motivates me is that these traditions are vanishing around the world before being accurately recorded. Time has always been my enemy, and I wish I would have been born 100 years ago.

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