The Tribal Designs of Borneo

Aman Sipatiti aka Durga is an Indonesian tattoo artist living in Berlin. He learnt his art from the indigenous tribes in Indonesia and Borneo and regularly goes back to spend time in the jungles to tattoo the villagers as per the ancient tradition of his ancestors. His preferred method of applying tattoos is by tapping which involves a “pricker stick” and a mallet. The rhythmic sound of the mallet is at times hypnotic and calming and contributes to the mental focus required by both the tattooist and the receiver.

The designs he chose for me were a pair of Borneo dragons (Nabau, for protection against malevolent spirits) and three “Iron Flowers” (Bunga Besi, the name given by the local tribal people for how the muzzle flash of a gun looked to them when it was fired). Like many of the traditional tattoos of this region, these are also believed to imbibe the wearer with spiritual powers.

As a side note, during the 90s there was a trend of “tribal” tattoo designs that the Quentin Tarantino movie From Dusk Till Dawn may have sparked, with George Clooney’s bold black sleeve. That “tribal” style in fact borrowed heavily from the traditional tattoo designs of Indonesia and Borneo.

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