Theword tattoo originated from the Tahitian word “tatu” which means to “marksomething” (Oxford dictionary). Captain James Cook introduced the word’tattoo’ shortly after the word ‘taboo’ to the English speakers. Theearliest use of the word was found in Captain Cook’s diary in 1769. Thefirst electric machine was invented by Samuel O’ Reilley which was improvedupon an earlier tattoo machine that was created by Thomas Edison. There are three types of tattoos. One example would be the decorativetattoo which is the most common and are usually placed on the skin fordecorative purposes.
Some are homemade with needle and India ink; othersare professionally applied with a tattoo gun using one or more colors oftattoo ink. Professional tattoos are deeper, contain more ink, and are moredifficult to remove. The second type of tattoo would be the Cosmetic tattoowhich is known as micro- pigmentation or permanent cosmetics. This type oftattoo is used as permanent eyeliner, lip liner, lipstick, and otherpermanent cosmetic purposes. This type of tattoo is also used to cover skinpigment disorders, scars and other blemishes.
The third type of tattoowould be Traumatic tattoos which are foreign substances, such as dirt, thatare embedded in the skin through an accidental injury. Sarawakian tattoos are categorized under decorative tattoos, undertribal tattoos. It is strongly believed that tattooing among the Dayaktribe, one of the largest tribe in Sarawak originated from China. Among thetribes in Borneo, tattooing is often associated with head hunting which isa visible sign of success for men and the coming age of women, as in somecases, it the tattoos symbolizes their status. Tattoos are part of the”rites of passage” and next to blackened teeth and long ear-lobes,intricate tattoos on fingers, hands, lower arms, thighs, calves, and feetserved as important elements of beauty for women.
The darker the color ofthe tattoo, the better it is seen as. In Borneo, women have tattoos on their forearms in symbols to signifytheir skill. For example, if a woman wore a symbol indicating she was askilled weaver, her status as prime marriageable material was increased. Tattoos around the wrist and fingers were believed to ward away illness.
Another tribe in Borneo would be the Apo-Kayans. They are a subgroup of theDayak people. Apo Kayan means the Kayan hill country bordering Sarawak- “Ayoung woman’s social position is also indicated, among other things, by thenumber of rings around the calves of her legs. It appears originally thesignificance of the tattooing was as a protective device.
” (Tillema ca. 1924-1927 1989) This in fact facilitated them to travel to the land of theancestors. Tattooing of women affects men in very objectionable ways as theoutcome of the magic it works. Consequently, it is only permitted atintervals of six years or more, and when the process is completed, acelebration is held. The festivity counteracts the bad influences whichthreaten the men.
But women sometimes go ahead with it anyway, without thechief’s consent, and they then go to the Ma Kulit, a tribe known for itsskillful tattooing of women. In the old days, almost all Dayak men tattooed their bodies. But insome Dayak sub-tribes, such as the Dayak Kayaan, it is mostly the women,who were tattooed. Not many men were tattooed due to the requirements andrestrictions.
Kayaan men are tattooed only if they have been mengayo (head-hunting). If a Kayaan man has a tattoo on the upper part of his thumb, itmeans that he once went head-hunting. A headhunter is respected by membersof his tribe. For Kayaan women, the tattoo symbolises beauty and pride. AKayaan woman who does not have a tattoo considers herself lower in rank tothose who have them. There are three types of tattoos for Kayaan women.
The first one,tedak kasaa’ covers the entire part of a woman’s legs and is only forgrownups. The tedak uses’ covers her arms while tedak hapii’ covers herthighs. A series of ritual ceremonies should be performed before getting atattoo. Dayak Kenyah people tattoo their bodies inside a house especially built forthe occasion. It is accompanied by certain ritual ceremonies.
When a man istattooed, every male member of his family is required to wear cawat (men’stribal wear) and they are not allowed to leave the house, while all membersof his family should refrain from doing certain things. If the requirementsand restrictions are violated the life of the man being tattooed will bethreatened. A rite called mela malam, or praying for the help of ancestors in thetattooing process, is performed the night before a Kayaan woman istattooed. The next morning, her family will take the woman to a relative’slonghouse near the house of the tattooEach Dayak ethnic group tattoos a different body part. Dayak Ngaju, Iban,Punan and Ot Danum people tattoo all parts of their bodies. The Dusun tribe which is near Mt.
Kinabalu Tambunan Valley, thebordering chiefs (Muslim chiefs) used to reconcile the Dusun by giving theaggrieved community some slave to dispose of; this is done by tying theslave up and spearing him through the thorax, then the men of the villageeach take a cut at the quivering body (slowly bleeding them to death). Whoever that does this has the right to tattoo himself. (Alman 1963). These days, the art of tattooing among the Dayak has almost vanished. Some tribes still practice it, but it is mostly carried out by oldergroups. Dayak youngsters long deserted the practice and if some of themstill do it, it is simply for aesthetic reasons.
Today, it is viewed moreas a form of art rather than culture; it is one way of expressing oneself. It is also a way of re-discovering their heritage and adorning their bodieswith images to bring them closer to their roots. BibliographyHopkins, Julian. (2004, March-April).
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