Tribal Self Portrait

“Whether with permanent marks like tattoos or scars, or temporary decorations like
makeup, clothing, and hairstyles, body art is a way of signalizing an individual’s
place in society, marking a special moment, celebrating a transition in life or simply
following a fashion.”

Brief History:
People around the globe have long used their bodies as canvases for
the expression of cultural identity, community status, connection to
ancestors or gods—and to mark rites of passage or to "wear" a
permanent amulet.
The word "tattoo" is believed to have originated in Polynesia from
tatau, which means "to mark." Some of the earliest tattoos were cuts
with ash rubbed into them, which formed blackened scars.

Tribes you might research:
Polynesian island tribes:
Polynesia is a group of over 1000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. The
most famous Polynesian tattoo styles are the Maori, Marquesan,
Tahitian, Samoan and Hawaiian styles.
Borneo- Tattooing in Borneo (one of islands of Indonesia/Malaysia) is
an important form of body modification. The tattoos are believed to
protect against pain and diseases. The Iban, Kayan en Kenyah tribes,
all headhunters, share the same style of tattoos. The Kayan used
carved wood blocks or carved skulls to transfer the designs onto the
Native American tribes:
Tattoos played a significant role in the culture of the American Indians.
They were used for identification, to give praise, magical powers or
protection. Typical Native American tattoo designs include animals
(eagles, snakes, bears), feathers and mythical creatures.

Haida- The Haidas are the indigenous people of the territory that lies
on the west coast of North America (southeast Alaska). The people
of the Haida tribe decorate their objects with crests (totems) and use
tattoos to represent the family crest and social status. The crests
included all kinds of animals (killer whale, shark, wolf, eagle, owl) as
well as the sun, the moon, clay, ...

Aztec-The Aztecs were another group of Native Americans. They
lived in central America from the 13th to the 16th century and used
tattoos to mark a warrior's rank and differentiate between the
various tribes. Typical Aztec tattoos include gods like Quetzalcoatl
and Huitilopochtili, suns and eagles.
Celtic tribes- The Celtic culture celebrated body art and permanent
body painting was done with woad, which left a blue design on the
skin. Spirals were a common motif and appeared single, doubled or
tripled. Knot work is probably the most recognized form of Celtic art,
with lines forming complex braids which weave across themselves.
Celtic knots symbolize the connections in life and the step or key
patterns, like those found in early labyrinth designs, can be seen both
in simple borders and full complex mazes. Designs are symbolic of the
various paths that life's journey can take
Maori- The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. They
use a form of personal identification called Ta Moko. Tattoos are used
to carve the family history into the skin.
Marquesan- The Marquesa islands are a group of islands situated in
French Polynesia. The Marquesan tattoo art greatly influenced
today's tattoo artists. The hands are an important tattoo spot in the
Marquesan tattoo tradition, as well as the ears, the shoulders and the

Hawaiian Tribes- Like the other tribal tattoos, tattoos in Hawaii have
a hidden meaning and are believed to have magical power. They are
applied during a ritual ceremony. Both men and women are tattooed
with motifs like triangles, squares, crescents and animals like sharks
and lizards.
Taino- The Taino were Indians that lived in the area of the
Caribbean Sea: the Dominican, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the
Bahamas, ... They were the first people Christopher Columbus came in
contact with in 1492. Tattoos were an expression of faith for the
Taino people, the higher the tattoos were on their body, the closer
they were to god. Tattoos were usually worn by men; the women wore
Chinese Tribes- The history of the Chinese tattoo is not very
appealing, but there are several ethnic minorities in China with a
strong tattoo tradition. The most notable tribes are those of the Dai,
Drung and Li.

Areas to research:
North & South America
New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
Melanesia, Oceania
Middle East

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