Society for Visual Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Although a relatively new trend in America and Canada, tattoos have been around for thousands of years, in many cultures around the world. The practice of marking skin has deep roots with indigenous groups in the Amazon, China, India, the Northwest Coast, the South Pacific and in many other societies. What happens when these cultural tattoo images are “borrowed” by curious westerners, looking to connect to something more exotic? Canada is a country of immigrants, with a mosaic of cultures and traditions, informing and inspiring us in a variety of ways. This paper will explore how some forms of indigenous tattoos are being executed in the contemporary Canadian tattoo industry. It will examine Maori, Hawaiian and Northwest Coast tattoo traditions. These indigenous groups have certain ceremonial ways of applying tattoos that hold symbolic connections to their communities and ancestors. How do these meanings change when similar designs, inspired by South Pacific or Northwest coast motifs, are applied in a western setting? Most importantly, should these practices be used at all, outside of their original element?