A close-up from an engraving of Jeanne des Anges (ca. 1638) displaying the nun and her "signed hand."The article is based on the research of Katherine Dauge-Roth, who has written about demonic possessions, exorcisms, and body markings among nuns in 17th-century France in her book, "Signing the Body in Early Modern France" (published in 2013).
Thanks to the powers of Facebook (and Mikey Freedom), I learned of a fantastic article entitled, "Demon Marks Lay Bare the Twisted History of Tattooing." Granted, I'm only ten years late to the game in reading this 2004 piece (which is like a billion years on the Internet), but the information is really fascinating and I had to share.
Here's a bit from the article:
Poring over nuns' diaries, biographies, and exorcists' accounts, Dauge-Roth has pieced together a fascinating tale of torment, tattoos and devotion that details a range of 17th-century body-marking practices and sheds new light on women's spiritual traditions.
The whole article is great read. I highly recommend it.
This week, one of the biggest tattoo news items was the deportation of a British tourist from Sri Lanka stemming from her Buddha tattoo, which the country's authorities deemed disrespectful to Buddhism. According to the BBC on Tuesday:
Naomi Coleman was arrested as she arrived at the airport in the capital Colombo after authorities spotted the tattoo on her right arm.This isn't the first time a Buddha tattoo raised problems in Sri Lanka. According to NPR, about a year ago, another British tourist was banned from entering the country for the very same reason. With both cases, the tattoo collectors were tattooed with the Buddha renderings out of respect and devotion, and yet, for the largely Buddhist nation, it was perceived as quite the opposite and taboo.
This story had me thinking of the recent Vice article "Greece's Muslim Immigrants are Ashamed of Their Prison Tattoos" by Alexia Tsagari. That article tells the story of six Muslim men who had tattooed themselves or voluntarily got tattooed while in prison, to later regret their tattoos because of the religious prohibitions and cultural stigma in the largely Islamic countries they emigrated from prior to arriving in Greece.
One of the men, Moshen, told Tsagari:
In prison, it's either them or you. You have to stay strong and struggle to survive on a daily basis. Some fight with their fists, others with their minds. I struggled daily to remain human. For this reason I carved two stars on my chest--a reminder that I wouldn't put my hands up, that I wouldn't surrender even if it meant my life would be in danger. Deep in my soul there are some thoughts and images, some secrets, that words cannot express. I turned these secrets into poems and drawings and had them engraved on my body.Tsagari writes that most Muslims consider tattoos forbidden--haram--and the consequences of getting tattooed can be severe: "In Iran, the government dubs anyone with a tattoo a criminal, and the punishment for getting one can be up to six months in prison and a hundred lashings." However, she explains, "Today, in most Muslim countries, tattoos are considered makrouh--that is, they aren't illegal per se, but it's generally best to avoid them."
Most recently in the US, there was the stir over this Tattooed Jesus ad, whereby a vocal contingent in Lubbock, Texas found a Christian organization's attempt at appealing to the youth was deemed "blasphemous."
[Interestingly, the tattoo found on a 1,300 year-old mummy was most likely a Christian devotional tattoo, so religious tattoos are reaaalllly old news.]
As with the British tourists kicked out of Sri Lanka, so many of these tattoos are inked out of love and respect, and so they warrant acceptance rather than punishment.
Tattoos above by Andreas "Curly" Moore.
Tons of tattoo news hit the headlines while we were out on vacation, so I figured I'd give y'all a run-down of some of the ones I found most interesting:
First off, I had to giggle over how the fantastic Andreas "Curly" Moore offered his own version of "Palm Sunday" (shown above) last weekend at Lionel's Tattoo Studio in Oxford. The Oxford Mail quoted Curly saying: "It was Palm Sunday, so we thought for amusement we would do three free palms. The tattoos had no religious meaning, it was just for the sake of beautiful art." Check more of Curly's beautiful art here. [He's also featured in Black Tattoo Art 2.]
Then, specifically designed to kill my post-vacation buzz, The NY Times published yet another tattoo essay. It wasn't because the word "asymptote" was used twice in an article that was not about geometry. It wasn't because the writer used the word "tat." Ok, maybe it was that, but it was used in this context: "I felt how much I needed, from him and everyone, a certain kind of response: to feel inspired by the tat, and tell me so." The "tat" in question was a Latin phrase homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto, translated, "I am human; nothing human is alien to me." I can see how it would be interesting if the tattoo was just a hook in the article to have a discussion on what that means...but then the writer brings in all the same stale discussions about getting tattooed post-breakup as some form of reclaiming her body, a declaration of selfhood, and the tattooed body as public space in some form -- all very true, but nothing new. It also neglects another real truism: no one has to break up with you for you to get a tattoo.
Thankfully, The Wall Street Journal came through with an article focusing on the art: "In Brooklyn Mentoring Program, Arts Volunteers Get Tattoos Designed by Teens." The piece discusses tattooer Scott Campbell's work for the arts education non-profit Free Arts NYC, specifically, a project in which he tattooed, for free, the artwork of 10 teenagers from the mentoring program on 10 volunteers -- thereby, connecting them in a powerful way. As noted in the WSJ, Scott wrote of the project:
"The volunteer promises, from that day onward, even if they never see or speak to each other again, to always look at that tattoo and believe in that kid [...] So that no matter where they are or what they're facing, they know there is someone walking around with his or her name on them, believing in them."There's more heart warming discussion in the article. A great read. Scott's art will also be auctioned off April 30th to further benefit Free Arts NYC (with this great promo shown above).
Here are some other links to tattoo news this past week:
I'll keep an eye out for more tattoo news worth sharing! Feel free to post links you like in the Needles & Sins Facebook group, as many of you already do (which I love!).
Part of my weekly To Do list is checking out tattoo artist blogs to see new work, and today I came across a year-in-review post by Jason Butcher: "10 from 2010," which I loved. Jason writes: "This is a list of 10 of my favourite tattoos from 2010. I've been lucky enough to do some really cool work this year so it's hard to choose, but here they are."
I'm a long time fan of Jason's work and featured him in my Black & Grey Tattoo tome. You can find Jason at Immortal Ink in Essex, UK and at tattoo conventions worldwide.