Tattooing; an artform arguably as old as human culture itself, crossing boundaries of nationality, religion and occupation. Tattoos are everywhere these days – even my sister has one, and she’s so straight you could measure things with her. But I think she (and for that matter, myself) would probably find the Wat Bang Phra tattoo festival in Thailand a little too extreme.
A quote from the Fortean Times article, linked above:
Behind the Wat?s museum, long queues have formed in front of a couple of outhouses. Teenagers with pockmarked faces, fat old thugs with eyes that burn holes into hell, taxi girls and mama-sans hang out, chatting and smoking with the monks. It?s weird to see this lot in daylight. Some people are completely drunk, others seem to be orbiting on yaba (speed). Most are already tattooed, either with cheap biker designs or with the Khmer Buddhist prayers and diagrams the monks here specialise in. Everybody wants to be photographed, to show off their scars (plenty of those) and skin illustrations. The monks too, are heavily tattooed, crests around their shaved skulls, throats ands shoulders adorned with chedis and prayers. The Khmer alphabet looks like a series of squiggling ants on the skin, stretching from the definite to the illegible, from the poetic to the anarchic. On backs and chests it’s recognisable as text, the instructions seem coherent. But on hands, legs and throats it’s all abstract, trippy (bad acid anyone?) and brutally crude.
Sounds like something from a Hunter Thompson novel…scary but horribly compelling at the same time. Apparently a lot of the guys and girls getting inked end up displaying symptoms of possession by animals and spirits. The monks consume a steady diet of smoke and Red Bull while working, often with the same works for every customer. Health and safety regulations, this isn’t.
Tattooing is very common in the UK and the US nowadays, thanks to its popularity as a celebrity fashion statement. Many people, it seems, have them just because they feel they should, with little consideration for any deeper meaning or symbolism. All my tattoos have meanings (and are all unique, no off-the-wall flash stuff), but people often seem surprised by the fact that there’s more to them than just being a design I liked the look of. So how about you, readers? Got tattoos? If so, do they have any deep meaning for you, or are they just there to look good? Or maybe you think tattoos are tacky nasty and thuggish. Let’s get some debate going here; leave a comment using the little link below this text. I know for a fact some of my readers have inkwork, so let’s hear from you. Speak out!
L*ink* thanks to MetaFilter.