Thursday - December 12, 2013
The word 'tattoo' is derived from the Tahitian word "tatu", which means 'to mark something'. Tattoo has been commonly practiced by different civilizations and cultures since 12,000 BC. The purpose and aim of getting a tattoo varied from one culture to another.
One of the earliest people who practiced tattooing were the Egyptians. Archaeological digs have shown us that tattooing was practiced in Egypt from the time the Great Pyramids were being constructed. As the Egyptian empire grew, so did this art form spread to other civilisations such as Crete, Greece, Arabia and China. During the 17th century, pilgrims returning from Jerusalem were seen bearing permanent marks on their bodies.
However, tattoos and people who bore them were not always viewed as pious or having good moral fiber. In the early 1800s, tattoos became associated with the criminal underclass as they were branded in order to display their illicit status. Eventually, tattoos became synonymous with the tough working class and criminals.
These days, tattoos have become an acceptable part of our lives, mainly due to its revival by celebrities. While it has enjoyed an astounding comeback, the purpose behind getting a tattoo nowadays are somewhat different. These days, tattoos are used to carry the identity of certain groups, the mark of a person's individuality and the symbol of beauty.
For many centuries, the tradition and practice of tattooing has also been a way of life for the Iban - one of the largest tribe amongst the natives. Tattoos were very much entwined with every aspect of their culture. The practice of tattooing was a sacred activity that connected the people to the spiritual world. Tattooing was also linked to the men's success in headhunting and the coming of age amongst the womenfolk. Aside from symbolizing their social status, tattoos also enhanced the women's beauty. It is believed that the darker the color of the tattoo, the more beautiful the tattoo and the bearer is. Women were also tattooed as proof of their accomplishments in weaving, dancing or singing. Aside from these, the Ibans also bore tattoos for protective purposes as it is said to help ward off harm and disease.