Perubahan tak dapat dielakkan

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Kompas.com: 28 Agustus 2009

Oleh Agnes Rita Sulistyawati & M. Hernowo

Bai Salasa Kerei, warga Desa Muntei, Kecamatan Siberut Selatan, Kepulauan Mentawai, Sumatera Barat, tidak ingat persis tahun berapa tato digambar di tubuhnya. Yang diingatnya, dia tidak punya banyak pilihan selain menuruti kehendak kakaknya agar badannya dirajah.

Bai hanya ingat ketika tato digambarkan di sekujur tubuhnya, dia masih berumur belasan tahun dan belum menikah dengan Aman Salasa Kerei.

Saat itu, Bai tidak dapat menolak tubuhnya ditato karena— bagi orang Mentawai—tato menyimbolkan pemiliknya berasal dari keluarga berada. Sebab, penatoan didahului dengan upacara adat atau punen enegat, yang diikuti masyarakat satu kesukuan. Tuan rumah bertanggung jawab menyediakan makanan bagi para tamu punen. Saat punen, seekor babi—ternak yang menjadi ukuran kekayaan masyarakat Mentawai—dipotong dan dimakan bersama. Sipatiti—orang yang menato—berhak membawa pulang seekor babi seusai mengerjakan tugasnya.

Bagi sikerei atau dukun di Mentawai yang bertugas mengobati orang sakit, tato juga menyimbolkan keabadian. ”Kalau saya meninggal, seluruh hiasan sikerei ini harus ditanggalkan. Tinggallah tato di tubuh yang dibawa ke liang kubur. Tato inilah pakaian abadi kami,” ucap Teuk Kerei, seorang sikerei asal Tinambu, Kecamatan Siberut Selatan.

Namun, penatoan yang dilakukan dengan menusukkan jarum kayu ke kulit dan kemudian diikuti dengan memasukkan campuran arang dan sari pati tebu ini menimbulkan rasa sakit yang amat sangat. Rasa sakit ini membuat Bai Salasa Kerei tidak melanjutkan penatoan hingga ke kaki.

Kekhawatiran terhadap rasa sakit itu pula yang membuat Aman Jazali, sikerei dari Butui, Desa Madobag, Siberut Selatan, memutuskan tidak menato tubuhnya. ”Lagi pula, sekarang juga tidak ada keharusan bagi sikerei untuk menato tubuhnya,” kata sikerei yang masih berumur sekitar 35 tahun ini.

Mulai ditinggalkan

Aman Jazali tidak sendirian. Generasi muda Mentawai pada umumnya sekarang memang enggan menato tubuhnya. Selain tidak kuat menahan sakit, tidak adanya biaya untuk pesta juga sering disebut sebagai alasan tidak lagi ditato.

Kurangnya peminat tato ini berdampak makin sedikitnya sipatiti. Bahkan, lantaran tidak ada lagi sipatiti yang bisa memahatkan garis-garis tato, Bajak Kamid, sikerei dari suku Sakoddobat di Tinambu, Siberut Selatan, terpaksa membiarkan tubuhnya polos tanpa tato.

Sebenarnya, tato mulai ditinggalkan warga Mentawai sekitar tahun 1955, ketika negara mencabut dukungan atas kepercayaan asli masyarakat Mentawai, yaitu Arat Sabulungan. Negara selanjutnya meminta pemeluk Arat Sabulungan memilih satu dari lima agama ”resmi”. Dampaknya, semua peralatan yang digunakan untuk ritual Arat Sabulungan, termasuk tato, dimusnahkan.

Peneliti tato Mentawai dari Universitas Negeri Padang, Ady Rosa, melihat, pencitraan tato juga sempat terpuruk ketika masyarakat umum mengidentikkan pemakai tato sebagai preman. Selain mulai enggan menato tubuhnya, generasi muda Mentawai kini juga jarang yang memakai kabbit, cawat dari kulit kayu baikko. Kabbit memiliki makna tertentu, seperti yang dipakai sikerei harus diwarnai dengan memakai getah kulit bakao agar berwarna merah.

Alasan ”kepraktisan” juga membuat sejumlah warga Mentawai mengubah beberapa tradisi dalam uma mereka. Misalnya, banyak dinding uma sekarang dibuat dari papan, bukan dari kulit kayu meranti.

Darmanto, peneliti tentang Mentawai, melihat lunturnya berbagai tradisi di Mentawai diakui menggerus Mentawai yang sekian lama ”menarik” di mata wisatawan. Tradisi, pantai yang indah, ombak besarnya, dan keragaman hayatinya adalah daya tarik itu.

Namun, perubahan adalah keniscayaan bagi Mentawai. Termasuk pengaruh televisi untuk sebagian wilayah yang berlistrik di sana. Perubahan sulit dicegah karena warga Mentawai bukan komunitas yang sengaja membentengi diri dari dunia luar, seperti warga Badui di Banten atau suku Naga di Tasikmalaya, Jawa Barat.

Menurut Darmanto, memaksa warga Mentawai setia kepada kebiasaan mereka, seperti memakai kabbit dan menato tubuh, apalagi demi eksotisme, adalah kurang tepat. Orang Mentawai harus merdeka menentukan hidupnya sendiri, termasuk memilih kemajuan yang mereka inginkan.

Kewajiban negara menjaga agar warga Mentawai tetap memiliki hak atas miliknya, seperti tanah, hutan, dan kearifan adatnya. Susahnya, ancaman terhadap warga Mentawai sebagian besar justru datang dari kebijakan negara, seperti keputusan pemerintah memberikan hak pengusahaan hutan (HPH) di Mentawai kepada sejumlah perusahaan.

Lokasi HPH sering bertabrakan dengan lahan adat suku Mentawai dan pengelolaan HPH sering pula tak sesuai dengan kearifan lokal orang Mentawai. Misalnya, pengelola HPH mengambil semua kayu, padahal tradisi Mentawai hanya mengizinkan pengambilan kayu yang sudah besar dan keras serta tidak dengan dibakar.

Padahal, seperti disampaikan Selester Sageruwjuw, warga Dusun Rogdog, Siberut Selatan, yang mereka butuhkan di tengah perubahan saat ini adalah adanya kesempatan menanamkan nilai kearifan adat dan budaya Mentawai kepada kawula mudanya. Jika keleluasaan ini tetap dimiliki, orang Mentawai tetap dapat merasakan kemerdekaan dari Indonesia yang sudah berumur 64 tahun ini….

Tattoos in Paintings: Natalia Fabia in Focus

Browsing through Juxtapoz’ August 2009 edition, I came across an interesting LA-based artist by the name of Natalia Fabia.  Her artwork infuses all of the artist’s favorite influences into painting after painting, each more vibrant and inspired than the next.  Her work is different and stands out.. the eyes need some getting used to, to differentiate whether it is a portrait or a painting or an oil painting portrait.  Here is an excerpt from the article in the magazine as written by Katie Zuppann.

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Take a handful of gems, a wealth of tattoos, mix in some ruffled lingerie and encrust with glitter, lots of glitter.  This tasty recipe is just a suggested serving, for the real magic lies in the viewer’s interpretation. Natalia Fabia takes an almost puerile, voyeuristic impulse, to an artistically sophisticated level.  Natalia’s work possessess a vibrancy, sexy and alluring, but maintains a delicate and feminine charm.

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Although Natalia may be best known for racy subject matter, her works are painstaking examinations of the fundamental language of paint:  light, color, space, composition, and surface.  Each canvas offers the artist an investigation into a series of formal problems.

One thing is indisputable:  Natalia’s mastery of oil paints has significantly improved in recent years, something the artist attributes to greater time and care spent on each piece. ‘I used to rush myself before,’ Natalia confirms… ‘I could always paint, I just paint smart now.’ Conscious painting or ‘painting smart’ is teh result of experience and just plain efficiency.

images[3]‘What exactly is the message you’re trying to convey?’ I question later on the phone.  ‘I’ve always been interested in environments, how people interact with their environments,’ she explains. ‘I think there is way more to paintings than just people see.  I do paint pretty things because that’s what I’m drawn to.  I’m super into clothing and fashion.  I love pretty women.  Even straight girls check each other out.’

A7C9GPWCAM2W76ZCARG34BOCAA9Y3C3CAU91MPPCAXHEZ0PCAXKILLWCAKA33MPCAPJVW9VCA0VOCXQCAX67HIVCAK01P8ICAQ4VO0ACADJK7M4CA8AQI1QCARW3XJ1CASYFY5RCA3NGD3TFor as long as Natalia can remember, she has been drawn to glitz and glamour, Punk rock, pinup dolls, tattoos, gems, chandeliers (as one of her body tattoo also implies as a back piece) – just about anything bright, loud and sparkly crept its way to Natalia’s heart and has never left.

 

 

Natalia Fabia’s work provides a visual feast, using traditional techniques to evoke the modern world through those favorite rose-colored glasses.  We may never get to cavort in a world habituated by playful stuffed animals and erotic women ourselves, but it’s inspiring and rejuvenating to visit every now and again.

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Tattoos for Women in the Middle East

Arabic tattos and tattooing in the middle east, in places such as Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Palestine, went back as far as the 19th century.  It was a way for arabic prostitutes to catch the eye of a man.  However, erotic tattoos such as breast tattoos are not quite as popular as they were once in the middle east.  Gypsies and nomadic people seem to influence most designs in tattoos in the middle east. The nomadic women were by far the most heavily tattooed, and were most likely tattoed by the gypsies.  The gypsies tended to tattoo people from Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq and Egypt up until the 20th century.

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In Iran, it was common for upper class women to have patterns tattoed on their chins.  The designs were sometimes very elaborate, and resembled that of a beared.  Along side the chin tattoos, it was common for women to tattoo their lips blue, as it iwas considered to embody beauty.  Beliefs attached to tattoos in the middle east often corresponded with thinking the wearer was imbued with magical power, these tattoos often times were dots or small crosses.  They usually adorned the hands, and feet, they believed that they either provided strength or protection.

Tattooing is nevertheless common among the Berbers of North Africa, where small designs with symbolic meaning are used (mainly by women).  Egyptian Christians ofthen have a cross tattooed on their hand or wrist.  These designs are very simple – often crudely done – and we are not aware of any Arab equivalent tot he elaborate tattos used, for example by the Maoris and Pacif islanders.

However, in this day and age, the demand for tattoos among Iranian, and other middle eastern women has exploded Iranian who are tattooed, however must keep them under wraps due to the authorities.

The art of tattoo in the middle east is forbidden by religious scriptures.  In despite of this restriction there are those who have a need or desire to get tattooed.  Some see it as a way to allow themselves to get closer to God while others use it as a way to remember some great event in their life.  Tattooing was also used as a rite of passage.

For a non-permanent skin decoration in the Arab world is practised mostly by women and takes the form of designs on hands and feet using henna, which fades away after a few weeks.  The complex patterns seen throughout the Middle East are normally achieved using stencils which can be bought cheaply in the souqs (markets).

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Religious sects use tattooing as a means to identify themselves to each other.  These specific tattoos hold some meaning within the religion itself.  The tattoos will generally consist of one or more symbols intertwined into one graphic pictorial. 

References about tattoos for women in the middle east can be looked up in the following books:

Mendhi by Carine Fabius and Michele M. Garcia; Arabic Tattoos by Jon Udelson.

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Ta Moko: More than just a Tattoo from New Zealand

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It is a permanent body and face marking by Maori, the indigeneous people of New Zealand.  It is distinct from tattoo and tatau in that the skin was carved by uhi (chisels) rather than punctured.  This left the skin with grooves, rather than a smooth surface.  It is mostly about family history story-telling pattern into the skin of a Maori descendant.  It is not limited to facial tattoos, as many mistakenly assume, although it certainly can include partial or full facial patterns.

Ta Moko is the tapu (sacred) form of family and personal identification among those of Maori whakapapa (genealogy).  Genealogy is so important to the Maori people that they know their family history back 2000 years. 

Brought by Maori from their Eastern Polynesian homeland, and the implements and methods employed were similar to those used in other parts of Polynesia.  In pre-European Maori culture, many if not most high-ranking persons received moko, and those who went without them were seen as persons of lower social status.  Receiving moko constituted an important milestone between childhood and adulthood, and was accompanied by many rites and rituals.  Apart from signalling status and rank, another reason for the practice in traditional times was to make a person more attractive to the opposite sex. 

Men generally received moko on their faces, buttocks (raperape) and thighs (puhoro).  Women usually wore moko on their lips (kauae) and chins.  Other parts of the body known to have moko on it include the foreheads, buttocks, thighs, neck and backs of women, and the backs, stomachs and calves of men.

In the making…

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Originally tohunga-ta-moko (moko specialists) used a range of uhi (chisels) made from albatross bone which were hafted onto a handle and struck with a mallet.  The pigments were made from the awheto for the body colour and ngarehu (burnt timbers) for the backer face color.

In the late 19th century, needles came to replace the uhi as the main tools.  This was a quicker method, less prone to possible health risks, but the feel of the moko changed to smooth.  Women continued receiving moko through 20th century, but moko on men stopped around 1860s in line with changing fashion and acceptance by Pakeha (white New Zealanders).  Women were traditionally only allowed to be tattoed on their lips, around the chin, and sometimes the nostrils. 

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During the last three decades tattooing has experienced a cultural renaissance throughout New Zealand society.  Artistically, the country’s tattooing is so influenced by the patterns and traditions of the Maori moko past that it constitutes its own genre.

Maori designs are also one of the primary sources of the tribal tattoing that has become so popular in the United States and other countries in the last twenty years.

More references on Ta Moko and its heritage can be found in the following books:

Maori Tattooing by H.G. Robley; Ta Moko by D.R. Simmons; Polynesian and Oceanian Designs by Gregory Mirow.

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Durga Tattoo: New link, New shop

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While migrating from WordPress blog, the new Durga Tattoo website can be accessed through the following link: http://www.durgatattoo.com.

Durga continues his body art expression and talent through his tattoo marks, more about Indonesian ornamental style, as well various tribal, deities, Indonesian muppet character, batik piece and many more.  All are done mainly with machine, as well through the traditional hand tapping method.  He is  accompanied by Jhonny Ish-Kab, as piercing artist.

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Studio information, location and other happenings can be found in this website. Or, why don’t you drop by our studio, it is always interesting and inspirative in exploring what you want to achieve with your body arts imagination.

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Return of The Tribal

0892816104.01._SX140_SY225_SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]A book by Rufus Camphausen was published in 1997, with a sub header: A celebration of body adornment.  Itis a book who made attempts to look at all types of body adornment from tribal to urban, from piercing to body painting, from scarification to tattoos, and from genital mutilation to structural modifications of the ears, legs & neck. 

 

 

 

The book has a moderate amount of written content, a mix of informative chapters and detailed photo captions.  It talked about the great variety  of practices, aiming at adorning, beautifying, or even modifying the human body are the most ancient and most direct expression of human creativity, known and practiced all over the globe and at all times.

Dayak Iban 2

Ear elongation from Dayak Kenyah

A woman from Dayak Kenyah

Huli Tribe in Papua New Guinea

Woodabe Man of Niger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the features that makes this such a good reference is the breadth of pictures and notes on scarification. There are many detailed pictures showing different types of African scarification, with notes on which tribes are wearing the designs and for what purposes that culture practices scarification. 

Lip plate on a Suri Woman Ethiopia

Suri Tribe Ethiopia

Modern body scarification

Fresh body scarification

 

 

 

 

 

Return Of The Tribal is a book that delves into body adornment cross-culturally and throughout history. The book is relatively short, but is packed with great photos and content.  It doesn’t talk about body art in a superficial stand point but considers it as an art with a very ancient history.

Young Marubo Tribe Woman, West Brazil

Facial moko on a Maori woman

Tao Moko of Maori Tribe, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

“A veritable travelogue through the geography of human imagination. Camphausen proves convincingly that today’s body modification trend is more like a revival than a fad.”
(Curio )

Tato Mentawai Akan Tinggal Kenangan

PadangKini.com

15 Juni 2008

Urlik Tatubeket, lelaki Mentawai berusia 46 tahun asal Pulau Sipora, terpilih sebagai Ketua Dewan Pengurus Aliansi Masyarakat Ada Peduli Mentawai (AMA-PM) dalam Kongres Masyarakat Adat Mentawai, di Tuapejat, Sipora, dua tahun lalu.

Sebagai ketua sebuah organisasi yang mengatasnama masyarakat adapt, Urlik terkesan jauh dari sosok seorang Mentawai yang dikenal melalui foto-foto selama ini.  Begitu juga dengan 265 peserta kongres, sebagian besar laki-laki, yang datang dari berbagai pelosok kampung di Kepulauan Mentawai.

Urlik dan mereka tak satupun yang memiliki tato penghias tubuh sebagai seorang Mentawai.  Padahal tato yang oleh orang Mentawai disebut ‘titi’ adalah bagian dari kebudayaan Mentawai yang penting.  SEtidaknya, ini telah bisa membuktikan bahwa tradisi tato sudah mulai ditinggalkan oleh orang Mentawai.

‘Sejak tahun 1950-an, setelah pemerintah mewajibkan penduduk harus memeluk salah satu dari lima agama besar yang diakui pemerintah, orang Mentawai tak lagi menghias tubuhnya dengan tato, kecuali dibeberapa kampung pedalaman di Siberut yang masih ada hingga kini, ‘kata Ulrik.

Sipora, Pagai Utara, dan Pagai Selatan adalah tiga pulau, dimana orang Mentawai yang berdiam disana tak lagi menato dirinya sejak 1950-an.  Menurut Urlik, di Pulau Sipora yang orang Mentawainya kini sekitar 8,000 jiwa, yang masih memiliki tato tak lebih dari 10 orang.  Tiga laki-laki dan selebihnya perempuan.  Usia mereka diatas 70 tahun.  Hal yang sama juga terjadi di Pagai.  Meski dihuni lebih 11,000 orang Mentawai, yang masih memiliki tato juga tak lebih dari 10 orang.  Mereka juga berumur diatas 70 tahun.

‘Bisa dipastikan, dalam 20 tahun ke depan tidak akan ada lagi orang Mentawai Sipora dan Pagai yang memiliki tato di tubuhnya,’ katanya.  Ada beberapa penyebab, menurut Urlik, kenapa tato hilang di Sipora dan Pagai.  Pertama, ajaran agama yang melarang kepercayaan Arat Sabulungan, kepercayaan kepada roh-roh, dan menganggap tato bagian dari kepercayaan itu.

Kedua, upacara membuat tato diawali dengan rangkaian upacara lain yang lama (paling cepat enam bulan) dan banyak pantangan (larangan).  Upacara ini disebut ‘punen’.  Karena itu banyak orang Mentawai yang tidak ingin menjalankannya karena sangat berat.

Ketiga, ada rasa malu bagi orang Mentawai, terutama yang bersekolah ke luar daerah untuk menato dirinya, karena dianggap orang lain sebagai lambing keterbelakangan dan primitive.  Kelompok orang Mentawai modern ini merasa lega terlepas dari budaya Arat Sabulungan.

Malu karena tidak ‘Bulepak’

Protestan yang masuk ke Mentawai sejak 1901, menurut Urlik, merupakan agama yang paling keras melarang kepercayaan lama orang Mentawai disbanding Katolik yang masuk sejak 1955 dan Islam sejak 1952.  Karena itu, Sipora dan Pagai yang mayoritas memeluk agama Protestan lebih cepat hilang kebudayaannya, termasuk tradisi tato.

‘Saya masih ingat waktu kecil ada orang Mentawai bertato yang diusir dari jemaat oleh pendeta,’ kata Urlik yang juga pendeta GKPM (Gereja Kristen Protestan Mentawai) Saurenuk, Sipora.  Untuk bisa menato diri, suatu suku di Sipora harus melakukan ‘punen’ yang paling cepat menghabiskan waktu enam bulan.  Punen dimulai dengan mendirikan uma (rumah ada khas Mentawai) dengan memotong sejumlah babi dan mengikuti berbagai pantangan.  Di antaranya tidak boleh melakukan [hubungan] seks dengan istri, tidak boleh memandang wanita, tidak boleh makan dan minum sebelum acara makan dan minum bersama, dan sebagainya.

‘Acara puncak punen adalah dengan melakukan perjalanan ke Pulau Siberut sebagai asal orang Mentawai, acara itu disebut ‘Bulepak’, ke sana naik sampan sampai 40 orang.  Jika sudah kembali dengan selamat menempuh ombak yang besar dari Siberut dengan membawa manik-manik khas Siberut, maka semua warga suku sudah boleh menato diri,’ kata Urlik.  Upacara seperti inilah yang berat dilakukan orang Sipora.  Menurut Urlik, acara ‘Bulepak’ terakhir yang dilakukan orang Sipora pada 1950-an.  Setelah itu tidak ada lagi orang Mentawai di Sipora yang melakukan itu.  Akibatnya, mereka tidak berani menato diri, karena syaratnya tidak ada.  ‘Mereka malu menato diri karena tidak pernah ‘bulepak’, setelah itu tak ada lagi orang Sipora yang bertato, hal yang sama juga terjadi di Pagai; katanya.

Ditato itu Sakit

Di Siberut, pulau terbesar di Kepulauan Mentawai dan merupakan pusat dan asal kebudayaan Mentawai, masih ada sejumlah kampung pedalaman yang masih menggunakan tato.  Dikampung-kampung di Sarereiket, Ugai, Matotonan, Simatalu, Sakudei dan Dimalegi penduduknya masih memakai tato.

 Meski di beberapa kampung para pemuda dan gadis yang mulai dewasa tetap ditato tubuhnya, namun yang meninggalkan tradisi tato jauh lebih banyak.  Umumnya mereka yang sudah berinteraksi dengan dunia modern, seperti melanjutkan pendidikan ke SMP dan SMA yang hanya terletak di ibukota kecamatan atau ke Padang.  ‘Umumnya kampung-kampung yang tradisi tatonya masih ada adalah yang menganut Katolik, sebab Katolik lebih longgar dan tidak sekeras Protestan melarang mereka, tetapi anak-anak muda yang bersekolah tak lagi mau ditato,’ kata Urlik.

Tradisi bertato memang mulai ditinggalkan di Mentawai, seiring dengan pengaruh dunia luar.  Jika dulu orang yang bertato dianggap lambang orang yang sehat dan kuat di Mentawai, kini anggapan itu telah beralih sebagai orang terbelakang.  ‘Ditato itu sakit dan lagian lambing primitive,’ kata Gerson Saleleubaja, 24 tahun, pemuda asal Maileppet, Siberut Selatan, yang kini menjadi jurnalis di Tabloid Puailggoubat, sebuah Koran lokal di Mentawai.

Terlepas dari itu, sebenarnya tato tradisional Mentawai adalah khazanah dunia, Ady Rosa, peneliti tato Indonesia dari Jurusan Seni Rupa, Universitas Padang, menyimpulkan bahwa tato Mentawai termasuk tato tertua di dunia.  Sayang, belum banyak yang meneliti jenis dan makna tato di Mentawai.  Ady Rosa sendiri baru meneliti penggunaan tato pada orang Mentawai di sejumlah kampung di Siberut dan belum meneliti di Sipora dan Pagai.  Padahal, menurut Urlik, tato Sipora dan Pagai memiliki perbedaan tertentu dari tato Siberut.  Misalnya, di Sipora ada tato tiga garis lengkung di pipi dan satu garis lurus dari dagu hingga leher.  Tato-tato ini belum diteliti dan akan segera hilang karena pemakainya yang sudah uzur.

160 motif Tato

Tato oleh orang Mentawai tak hanya berfungsi untuk keindahan tubuh, tetapi juga lambang yang menunjukkan posisi atau derajat orang yang memakainya.  Ady Rosa, peneliti tato menyimpulkan, seni tato yang oleh orang Mentawai disebut ‘titi’ mulai dikenal di Mentawai sejak orang Mentawai datang antara 1500 sampai 500 sebelum Masehi.  Mereka adalah suku bangsa protomelayu yang datang dari Yunan, kemudian berbaur dengan budaya Dongson. ‘Tato di Siberut sudah jauh sebelum bangsa Mesir mulai membuat tato sekitar tahun 1300SM, jadi bukan tato Mesir yang tertua di dunia, tapi tato Mentawai,’katanya.

Ady Rosa dalam laporan hasil penelitiannya berjudul ‘Fungsi dan Makna Tato Mentawai’ (2000) menyimpulkan, ada tiga fungsi tato bagi orang Mentawai.  Pertama, sebagai tanda kenal wilayah dan kesukuan yang tergambar lewat tato utama.  Ini semacam kartu tanda penduduk (KTP).  Kedua, sebagai status sosial dan profesi.  Motif yang digambarkan tato ini menjelaskan apa profesi si pemakai.  Misalnya sikerei (tabib dan dukun), pemburu binatang, atau orang awam.  Ketiga, sebagai hiasan tubuh atau keindahan.  Ini tergambar lewat mutu dan kekuatan ekspresi si pembuat tato (disebut ‘sipatiti’) melalui gambar-gambar yang indah.

Menurut Ady, ada sekitar 160 motif tato yang ada di Siberut.  Masing-masing berbeda satu sama lain.  Setiap orang Mentawai, baik laki-laki maupun perempuan bisa memakai belasan tato di sekujur tubuhnya.

Pembuatan tato sendiri melewati proses ritual, karena bagian dari kepercayaan Arat Sabulungan (kepercayaan kepada roh-roh).  Bahan-bahan dan alat yang digunakan didapat dari alam sekitarnya.  Hanya jarum yang digunakan untuk perajah yang merupakan besi dari luar.  Sebelum ada jarum, alat pentatoan yang dipakai adalah sejenis kayu karai, tumbuhan asli Mentawai, yang bagian ujungnya diruncingkan.

Sipatiti (pembuat tato)adalah seorang lelaki dan tidak boleh perempuan.  Sebelum pembuatan tato harus diadakan ‘punen patiti’ (upacara pentatoan).  Upacara dipimpin oleh seorang sikerei.  Upacara yang dilakukan dengan menyembelih beberapa ekor babi ini harus dibiayai oleh orang yang ditato dan hanya dilakukan pada awal pentatoan. 

Menurut tato di Mentawai dilakukan tiga tahap. Tahap pertama pada saat seorang berusia 11-12 tahun, dilakukan pentatoan di pangkal lengan.  Tahap kedua usia 18-19 tahun dengan menato bagian paha.  Tahap ketiga setelah dewasa.  Proses pembuatan tato memakan waktu dan diulang-ulang.  Tentu saja menimbulkan rasa sakit dan bahkan menyebabkan demam.

Epilogue to the Freak Show in Sydney

During the 3-day Sydney Tattoo and Body Arts Exhibition back in March 2009,  a number of publications interviewed Durga and one of them was Australian Ink.  For all the visitors of the exhibition, a teaser 10-pager of what would be the first Australian Tattoo, lifestyle and music magazine was given out. 

Vanessa Morgan, the editor, came by our booth and requesting for an interview time with Durga for the next day.  She brought with her the photographer from her magazine to take a couple of shots while he is doing his work.

The next day, right on time, Vanessa came and did the interviewed just outside the exhibition hall.  She promised to let us know when the magazine will be out, approximately mid May 2009.  Rightly so, it came out with a bang with Pink’s photo on the cover and a headline of Femme Fatale Issue. 

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In this issue, I found not only Durga was profiled, but a couple of my favorite tattoo artists and studio were there, too – such as Danniel DiMattia from Calypso Tattoo Studio in Belgium, as well as Megan Oliver (she did my first tattoo!) and the team of talented artists and owner of Inner Vision studio in Sydney.  Such an exciting edition!  So here we go…

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 DURGA

Booth after booth was filled at the Sydney Tatoo and Body Art Expo, with artists from around the world displaying their own style and take on the art.  But in a small, almost hidden corner of the expo sat an artist entirely unlike any other.

Indonesian born Durga’s work evokes a tribal signature distinct to his own experience, with influences of folklore, legends and mythology from his native land.  He twists in a hint of the macabre and taboos from the diverse culture he grew up with.

 Having studied visual art at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, he then journeyed to Germany to further his understanding of art and work as a graphic designer.  Soon after, he found himself in a one of the tattoo capitals of the world – Los Angeles.

‘The initial idea to be a tattooist happened in Germany,’ Durga says.  But it wasn’t for four years till his wish came true, taking up an apprenticeship at Black Wave Tatoo, on La Brea Avenue, LA.

Black Wave Studio is known for its tribal tattoos and Durga studied under Sua Sulu’ape Freewind, the current owner of the studio, who has made an obligation to preserve the ancient art from tatau.  Specializing in the art of archipelago Indonesia, his emphasis is on making each piece of work unique for individual clients.

Durga says that like many Asian countries, young people in Indonesia look to get western-styled tattoos as opposed to the tribal and traditional works.  However, he has seen a change recently, with more people looking to honour their culture and traditions.  With a rich tattoo history, tattooing was eliminated in Indonesia during the colonial era, prohibited by the Indonesian government.

Following his stint in LA, Durga returned to Indonesia, continuing to learn and taking up a traditional hand-tapping tattoo style with Dajak Borneo and Mentawai-Sumatera techniques.

 Currently set up in his home, he will open his studio in June 2009, taking plenty of care to ensure it is the right environment for his clients.

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INNER VISION

Inner Vision is one of Sydney’s best-known and respected tattoo studios, opening its doors 14 years ago when owner, Cliffe Clayton, returned from touring the US and spending four years studying under the world-respected John ‘The Dutchman’ van ‘t Hullenaar in Vancouver, Canada.

 The shop started with a crew of one in the back streets of Surry Hills doing great custom Japanese tattooing at a time when few were doing it in Australia.  From there the reputation of the shop and artist line up grew into what it is now – a premier street/custom tattoo shop with five full-time artists and a regular crew of international guests making yearly visits.

Open seven days a week, the studio recently moved from its old terrace location to a spacious new shop across the road.  Studio manager and Australian Ink’s resident tattoo advisor, Kian Forreal says: ‘It was definitely the end of an era, bue the new shop at 251 Crown Street is four floors shop space with lots of natural light and room to move and be creative.  Everyone is super happy with the new shop.  We really needed more space.’

The studio caters for diverse clientele, open for walk-ins on the weekend and custom during the week.  ‘People will always travel for quality.  We get investment bankers, artists, mums, blue-collar workers, restaurateurs, musicians – pretty much the entire spectrum of people that want the best tattoo they can find.  We stand behind our work 100 per cent’ Kian says.

 With thousands of pre-dawn designs in both classic and contemporary styles, there is an extensive reference library for anyone looking for custom work.  Photographic portfolios of all current studio artists are available, with each of the artists capable in most styles, yet choosing to specialize in their own favourites for custom work.  The studio also has a rotating roster of guests that are good all-rounders as well as specialists. 

Ensuring the standards are met through a combination of highly artistic, skilled tattooists, great client communication and hospital-grade sterilization procedures, Inner Vision puts its success down to its employees.  Kian elaborates: ‘We are very discerning about who we hire and what we look for in potential artists. You must have a high regard for tattooing in general and a great portfolio to back it up.  We also prefer at least 10 years of shop experience.

Eternal Statement

A distinct individual expression in a tattoo may not be in a picture format.  Some would choose a typographic or lettering tattoo.  This type of tattoo is not just about letters, numbers, punctuation or character; it can create something that makes social or political statement on an issue you have a strong opinion on.

The book by Ina Saltz, author of Body Type: Intimate Messages Etched in Flesh, certainly reflecting what typographic tattoo is all about.  It presented a fascinating and unusual new book of photographs that will appeal to typophiles everywhere.  The book also focuses more on the meanings, rather than the fonts.

Saltz is a designer, art director, and an associate professor of electronic design and multimedia at the City College of New York.  She is also obsessed with the world of ‘typographic’ tattoos, the result of a serendipitous bus ride and a man with the word ‘happy’ tattooed on his arm.  What made that tattoo stand out to Saltz was the fact that it used an ‘appropriately kerned’ version of Helvetica.  She took a photo of that tattoo, and discovered that there was a whole class of tattoos that were created with typography in mind.

It is not just a photo book, although the photos are the main attraction.  Saltz includes many of the stories – some sad, some uplifting – attached to the creation of many of the tattoos, and she sheds light on different categories of presentation, as well as unique and rare typefaces.  We found this book, and I immediately love it, in Kinokuniya Suria KLCC last year.  It is truly an inspiring one, no matter how many times I have looked at it.  View some of the photographs from the book at www.bodytypebook.com

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Another amazing reference is the famous ambigram done by John Langdon (www.johnlangdon.net).  Ambigram is word(s) which can be read from two different vantage points.  It can have the same reading, for example from his famous Earth, Air, Fire, Water or Angels & Demons; and many many more creations.

As I mentioned in my earlier entry, I can’t get enough of Ampersand.  Check out a collection of ampersand format in http://ampersand.gosedesign.net

I also found that a NZ tattoo studio called Otautahi Tattoo at the centre of Christchurch presented their neat works, especially on lettering tattoos. Check out their website on www.otautahitattoo.com

Lastly some tips in selecting lettering tattoo:

  • The word/sentence/paragraph chosen is key
  • How they are visually presented
  • Location on the body in relation to the message.

Tattoo: Religion, believe and its meaning in India – Part 2

The story of the Ramanami

 

By Travellin’ Mick

Urban Ink 2009

 

It is not farfetched to think that the Ramanami might be an ancient cult, going back thousands of years in Hindu history, a remnant of times when Aryan and Dravidic tribes fought over rule of the land.  Or maybe it was an old tradition of ethnic minorities, inhabiting jungles and mountains? In actuality, it was none of the above.  Considering that there are only a handful of tattooed Rama devotees remaining, the cult is not that ancient after all.   It is young enough that there are still Ramanami alive who claim to have personally known the found of the sect. 

 

‘Parasuram was born into a poor untouchable farmers family in the mid 1800s.  Even though he always had to work hard in the fields, he taught himself how to read and spent a lot of time reciting the sacred scripts of the Ramayana.  He became a devout follower of Lord Rama and even lectured the Vedic scripts to other villagers.  When he was already an adult married man, he was unfortunate to be infected with leprosy and decided to renounce his normal existence and become a wandering sadhu, in order not to inconvenience his community and family.  Just before he left, he was visited by a wise man, who told him that if his faith in Lord Rama was deep enough, his name would be written on his chest.  Parasuram kept awake all night and recited the Ramayana and when first light came in the morning he found that ‘Ramram was tattooed on his chest, and that his terrible disease had disappeared!  Parasuram remained a modest family man and never wanted to be a guru, but soon he had a following of diligent students, who started ‘wearing the name of Rama’ on their foreheads.  Thus the Ramanami cult was born around 1890.’

 

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Apparently the Rama cult started around 1890 as a tiny local group.  Many untouchables at the time were seeking moral support in their tough lives and welcomed a community where they could praise their Lord with out discriminating from higher castes.  It is hardly surprising that the Rama cult soon met fierce and sometimes violent opposition, since they according to traditional Hindu belief – ‘polluted’ the name of the Lord by tattooing it onto their ‘dirty’ bodies.  Consequently the sect moved even closer together and declared strict rules for their followers.  A real Rama devotee has to become vegetarian, cannot take alcohol and – most importantly – has to have ‘Rama’ tattooed on a visible part of the body. 

 

In 1907 a British colonial court declared the Ramanami a religion, which could not be discriminated against.  After Parasuram, who always denied formal leadership, had died around 1920, the sect reorganized and grew steadily into the 1960s.  An economic crisis in the 1970s changed the situation of the Indian rural population radically.  Many landless peasants had to seek scarce paid labour in the cities, a difficult feat for the Rama devotees, who were often ridiculed.  Fewer sect members tattooed their children, membership dwindled and tattooing vanished almost entirely.  Even though the Rama cult still exists in India, it has become more rare and a lot harder to identify. 

 

Ramanami and their Religious tattoo

 

The most interesting aspect of the religious tattoos of the Rama cult is that they are gender dependent.  Men and women carry identical visible and indelible marks of their belief on their skins; a rare occurrence in ethnic minorities, where tattoos tend to be gender-specific.  In the case of the Rama devotees though, the tattoo is the unifying element of an entire community that has been demonized as out-casts and consequently moved closer together.  To have the name of Lor Rama tattooed on the body thousand-fold is a clear statement towards higher castes; look, we too are able to worship our God and to have our own identity.  We, men and women alike, can even have His name on our skin! The tattoos are the visible symbol of the pride and steeliness of a deeply religious group of Hindus, a mark that conjures the highest respect for the devotion and spirituality of these human beings.

 

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The last tattooist

 

To find out more about the secret tattoos of the devotees of Lord Rama, we tried to locate the last remaining tattooist of the sect.  We were given the name of his hamlet, but not its exact location.  Another needle in the haystack!

 

But I can always rely on my guide ‘ I have a feeling it is here., ‘ Jaspreet Augurs, when we  – once again – turn towards a dusty village road. ‘Let’s ask here at this hole-in-the-wall shop.’  We stumble into the semi-darkness of a tiny room, where the bare necessities of Indian life are for sale.  A few chicken scurry into open air and an old man jolts awake staring into our faces, disbelieving.  I am not sure who got the bigger shock.  His eyes penetrated the dim light and form a stark contrast to his dark, fully tattooed face.  They are a bright steely blue!  What a surprise, especially considering that we have been wondering all week why many Rama devotees had rather African than Indo-European features.

 

Bhururam introduces himself as a neighbor and best friend of Gangaram, the tattooist we are looking for, and he immediately sends out a boy to fetch him.  While we chat with friendly BHururam, two Rama devlotees stride towards us from a distance.  It is Gangaram the tattooist and his wife Punaibai, who saved head and heavy tattoos give her a strangely androgynous appearance.

 

We are overwhelmed:  the couple is known to be among the most devoted Rama followers.  They both are naksik.  Every square inch of their skin is covered with the mantra ‘ramram’.  Everything:  face, palms, ears, eyelids; they had even tried to tattoo their tongues!  It had taken 18 days of hell to finish the tattoos, a challenge only to be concluded by those who are driven by the deepest beliefs in their divine leader.  Cult tattoos are never paid for; the tattooists see their task as service for the community.

 

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The last large tattoo that Gangaram did was the murthi (statue) of Janki, a lady in her midforties now, who decided to have her face tattooed about ten years ago.  Gangaram personally knows nine Rama devotees with full body tattoos who are still alive, but suspects more individuals outside his own province.  Quite a few of those have already reached the winter of their years and the youngest naksik is the current headman of the Rama cult, a man in his fifties.  It seems that it won’t be long until the last human beings to totally devote their lives – and bodies – to Lord Rama will soon be a mere memory. 

 

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