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Marks of Life: The Visual Language of Tattooing

religious core that Indigenous tattooing evolved. Bound by


norms, rules, interdictions, and ritual injunctions,

tattooing functioned to

communicate shared values within the group in order to reduce internal

dissension. And what tattoo tells us on this view is how social stability is

constituted by showing us what a culture’s ethos is and what sensibilities

were shaped by that ethos

especially when it was spelled out externally

on the skin and articulated via social symbolism and traditional practice.

As a medium of cultural inscription, tattooing thus worked to assert

and inscribe affiliation, maturity, responsibility, religious belief, social

achievement, personhood, and humanity, as well as many other aspects of

Indigenous culture that deserve our attention and utmost respect.

1 A. Walbank Buckland, “On Tattooing,”

Journal of the

Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland


1888: pp. 318-327.

2 A. Rubin (ed.),

Marks of Civilization: Artistic

Transformations of the Human Body

, Museum of

Cultural History, University of California, LA, 1988.

3 A. Deter-Wolf and C. Diaz-Granados,

Drawing With

Great Needles: Ancient Tattoo Traditions of North


, University of Texas Press, Austin, 2013;

L. Krutak,

The Tattooing Arts of Tribal Women


Bennett and Bloom, London, 2007; L. Krutak,


Tattoos and Scarification: Spiritual Skin. Wisdom.

Healing. Shamanic Power. Protection

, Edition Reuss,

Aschaffenburg, 2012; M. Kuwahara,

Tattoo: An


, Berg, Oxford. 2005; S. Mallon, P. Brunt

and N. Thomas,



Samoan Tattoo. New Zealand

Art. Global Culture

, Te Papa Press, Wellington, 2010;

T. Mangos and J. Utanga,

Patterns of the Past: Tattoo

Revival in the Cook Islands

, Punarua Productions,

Auckland, 2011; J.U. Parkitny,

Bloodfaces: Through the

Lens. Chin Women of Myanmar

, Flame of the Forest,

Singapore, 2007; N. Te Awekotuku,

Mau Moko: The

World of Maori Tattoo

, University of Hawai’i Press,

Honolulu, 2007; N. Thomas, A. Cole and D. Bronwen


Tattoo: Bodies, Art, and Exchange in the Pacific

and the West

, Duke University Press, Durham, 2005.

4 A. Gell,

Wrapped in Images: Tattooing in Polynesia


Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993; L. Krutak,

Kalinga Tattoo:

Ancient and Modern Expressions of the Tribal

, Edition

Reuss, Aschaffenburg, 2010; L. Krutak,

Tattoo Traditions

of Native North America: Ancient and Contemporary

Expressions of Identity

, LM Publishers, Arnhem, 2014.

5 A. Arnaquq-Baril,

Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of Inuit


, 2010 (Documentary film, Unikkaat Studios, Inc.

50 min.).

6 See note 3, above, Krutak, 2007.