The history of tattooing belongs to a great many peoples, and as the art travelled across the globe, the styles, methods and meanings were adapted to the various tribes which used the practise of tattooing within their culture.
Presently, the art of the Maori, Polynesian, Samoans and mesoamerican peoples such as the Aztec are popular and are referred to as 'tribal' in the West, but the practise of tattooing extends to many other tribes, such as the Iban of Borneo, the tribes of the Philippines, and the people of the Mentawai islands, whose art is less well known. What's currently known as tribal scarification has long been common practise amongst the tribes of Africa, where tribes such as the Makonde of Mozambique have changed their practises very little throughout the ages. It's from West Africa that the Adinkra symbols emerged and spread across the globe. Practices such as Yantra Tattooing, as found in Cambodia, also have their roots in spiritual teachings, and their designs and traditional methods are closely related to much of tribal tattooing history.
African Nuer Tribal Woman by Leannew27
Traditional MethodsAlthough tribal design tattoos are now fairly common across the globe, and can be obtained from most tattoo studios, the tribes themselves often observed strict rites and ceremonies surrounding the practise of tattooing. These range from periods of abstinence from food, water, or sexual behaviour, to rites of passage such as dangerous journeys to prove worthiness of a tattoo. Whilst modern day tribal is tattooed using a machine, the tribes often hand-tapped the designs into the skin, or cut the skin and rubbed the ink in. Inks were made of a variety of natural substances local to the tribe ranging from animal bile to ash, and the tattooists themselves were often spiritual leaders of the tribe.
Traditional Tribal PurposesTribal tattoos served a range of functions - from magical protection to denoting social status or accomplishments. Wearers often sought to reaffirm their lineage and ancestors, or do honour to their Gods. The location and type of tattoo carried great significance, and was taken very seriously before the actual tattooing was carried out.
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