Indonesian Traditional Hand Poking

Many of the regions within South East Asia have a rich historical tattoo culture. In today’s world the younger ink enthusiasts tend to prefer more contemporary tattoo styles and trends, and most tattoo studios cater to this. Some artists, however, are dedicating their talents to the preservation of the ancient ways and one such tattooist is Albar Tikam of Suku Suku Tatau in Bali. Albar started out as a machine tattoo and body modification artist but soon went back to his ancestral roots by studying the traditional tattoo styles of that region.

Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world (with over 500 languages and dialects, and over 17 000 islands) and has the largest Muslim population of any country. The traditional tattoos stem from the tribal regions with the most dominant styles coming from the Mentawai and Iban people. As with most traditional tattoos, their ink represents a much deeper meaning than just the designs. They signify family lineage, wisdom, and social status, among other things such as the transition into adulthood. There are designs for both males and females and the placement of these on the body are very specific. These designs are inked onto the body using a thorn or sharpened bone and the ink is made from fire smoke and sugar cane water. Over time all the tattoos on an individual become interconnected as that person reaches the various stages of their life, so these tattoos truly tell a story of each person. It is also believed that the oldest evidence of tattoos in the world may be from the people in this region.

The piece he did for me was placed around the first Sak Yant (of Hanuman, the semi-divine monkey like figure in Buddhism and Hinduism) and complements it with traditional patterns of protection.

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