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The craft of Tattoo and Body Painting
Part 1
• The term “Body Art” is actually a broad
term used to describe any method of
expression that alters the appearance of
the human body.
• This includes things like piercing,
mutilation, body building, plastic surgery
and other forms of “body sculpture”.
• “Skin Art” is a facet of Body Art that
refers to alteration of the skin in ways like
tattoo, body painting and scarification.
Scarification in Papau New Guinea
Scarification today…
Not recommended for a variety of health reasons as well
as its unpredictable results.
Something new?
Guess again…
(lip plate) African in origin
body shape alteration
Egyptian art…
Was it showing
evidence of
Muyanmar (Burma) neck rings
Stretched earlobes
But really…
What’s the difference between
body building
…and this?
Chinese foot binding
Is there a
between this…
…and this?
Otzi, The Tyrolean iceman, a 5300-year-old mummy
• Tattoo and body painting is one of the oldest art forms
known to man.
2000 year old mummy from Asia
• Tattooing appears on ancient
mummies from all corners of the
earth and as old as the oldest
remains ever discovered.
Modern tattoo (as we know it
today) comes from the Pacific
British sailors would return
from places like New Zealand,
Polynesia, Hawaii and Australia
with native tattoo’s.
The concept eventually moved
from the military to the civilian
The Maori of New
Zealand were the most
well known for their
elaborate all over
(especially for the facial
tattoo’s known as Moko).
The word “tattoo” is actually a
mis-pronunciation of the
Polynesian word Tatau,
which means “to pierce”.
What purpose did tattoo serve?
• In most primitive culture body markings served
many purposes.
1 - Protection (both spiritual and physical).
Act as guides or identification in the afterlife.
2 - Show status and/or group affiliation.
Both positive and negative.
3 - Medicinal and healing purposes.
As with Otzi…
4 - Mark achievements.
Traditional division of the face for Moko patterns.
Traditional Maori tattoo uses blue dye inserted under the skin.
Tattoo however was not
limited to the face (or
only to men) but was
used across the entire
The people of Samoa
tattooed the legs and
buttocks heavily, due to
the large surface area
that could be covered.
The traditional woman's
tattoo is called a Malu,
and is more open and
airy than the male
The male version, the
pe’a, is thicker, with
less open space and
more ink.
The pe’a eventually
covers the entire leg
from lower back to foot.
While some
women did wear
the traditional full
... most female tattoo was limited to the chin...
...or the forehead areas.
The Inuit women in Alaska also
practice chin tattooing.
Traditional island tattoo
is chiseled into the skin
by using sharp
instrument called a
multiple prong Combs
Combs are dipped in ink and hammered with a
stick so that they vibrate like a tuning fork. This
forces the ink beneath the surface of the skin.
The act of
(in progress)
Tattooing in the western world was
brought to a halt in A.D. 787.
Pope Hadrian banned the art form,
…citing Leviticus 19:28 and 21:5 as well as
Deuteronomy 14:1.
This was because Crusaders were tattooing
themselves with Christian symbols. Why?
So that if they were killed in the Holy Land they
would receive Christian burials (pilgrims were also
tattooing themselves to show they had visited
certain Christian religious sites).
The church feared the eastern (and therefore Pagan) associations.
Skin Art
Part 2
body painting
Almost all cultures at one time have practiced body painting.
And most still do (without realizing it).
The ancient Celts were the most
famous people to paint
The Celts would use Woad, a
blue dye to paint mystical
symbols on their bodies when
engaging in warfare.
Woad was also rumored to have a
hallucinogenic component, (similar to
ancient pigment used in cave paintings).
Hence the “crazy” Celtic warrior legend.
Celtic design motifs (based on animal forms).
Native North Americans also
had a highly developed sense
of aesthetics, and used face and
body painting extensively.
The Native Americans not only
used body painting in war, but
as a status symbol as well.
Other methods of marking the body...
People have been using the sun and the bodies
tanning ability as a stencil for as long as there
has been recorded history.
This is also called “sun tattooing”
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