Though tribal tattoos stem from ancient cultures and tradition, yet they are still at the height of popularity in the modern world due to their stylish designs and looks which exude raw power and strength. Their bold patterns have made him a hot favorite among discerning tattoo lovers around the world. The great thing about tribal tattoos is that they are extremely eye catching and will definitely capture the attention of the onlookers with their striking, interlocking patterns. Tribal tattoos adhere to the theme of nature and they have been ruling the tattoo world since the eighties and the nineties.
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Symbolic Meanings of Tribal Tattoo
They stand as a mark of recognition and respect for the culture they come from and date back to centuries ago. Even the contemporary designs in tattoo art make use of tribal tattoo designs as their basis. In ancient times, tribal tattoos were inked by making use of traditional equipment such as bones and needles, along with plant based and animal based dyes. Though these procedure were not hygienic, this had no bearing on their popularity. But fortunately, these old fashioned equipment and tools have now been replaced with better ones, making the process far more safe and hygienic for tribal tattoos and all other kinds of tattoos. Thus the tradition lives on, but with the blend of modernity which makes things easier and less painful for tattoo designers as well as tattoo lovers.
Origin of Tribal Tattoo Art
The tribal tattoos as are used in present times are associated with the ancient tribes like those from the Maori, Polynesian, Hawaiian, Samoan and Native American cultures. In ancient times, tattoos were used in these tribes to point out towards the background and social status of the bearer in the tribe, they were also an important part of the religious rituals followed in the tribe, besides being known for their medicinal use. The people with influential social status wore tattoos which were big in size while smaller tattoos implied lower social stature. They were used as an identification mark in certain ancient tribes, with these marks being used to identify the members of the clan in life and after death. Moreover, tribal tattoos had a story to tell, with images of animals, warriors and natural forces being featured in them to throw light on an event in the life of the bearer. In these tribes, tattoos were inked on both, men and women, as part of their customs and traditions. These tattoos were inked on people to signify some important event in their life, as the passage from childhood to puberty and so on. The roots of modern tribal tattoo art lie in America, though it is inspired by the traditional tribal designs. Some other tribal influences in modern tattoo art include Chinese, Japanese, Aboriginal, Aztec, Mayan, Egyptian and Oriental.
Traditional Tribal Tattoo Designs
Tribal tattoos originate from various cultures, with each of them showcasing special and unique designs in tribal art.
- Native American Tattoo Designs – The Native American tattoo designs make liberal use of animal patterns, with due importance to wild creatures like snakes, eagles and bears, in addition to mythical creatures and natural objects like feathers, dreamcatchers, anchors, stars. These designs were recognized as talismans of faith, power and protection, besides being used as identification marks.
- Polynesian Tattoo Designs – The Polynesian Islands include the island of the Pacific Ocean and are famous for their rich tradition and culture. They have been home to special tattoo designs, which were popularized by sailors like Captain Cook. They were a part of the Polynesian culture long before they reached the other parts of the world through European sailors. These tattoo designs include Maori, Samurai, Hawaiian and Samoan tattoo art.
- Maori Tattoos – The Maori refers to the native tribe of New Zealand, who made the use of distinct tattoo designs as a mark of identification, known as Ta Moko. These tattoo designs carved everything about the family, both maternal and paternal, on the bearer as a mark of his personal background and social stature.
- Hawaiian Tattoo Designs – The Hawaiian tattoos were an important part of the traditional customs and rituals of these people. These tattoo designs featured geometrical patterns like squares, triangles and crescents, along with animals like lizards and sharks. These tribal tattoos were believed to have special magical powers.
- Aztec Tribal Tattoo Designs – Another well known clan which lived in Central America in the 13th-16th centuries was the Aztecs, who used to make tattoos as a sign of the rank of the warriors as well as to make a distinction between various tribes. The native Gods, eagles and sun were the basic elements used in Aztec tribal designs.
- Marquesan Tattoo Designs – Another group of island located in French Polynesia is the Marquesa Island, where tattoos are usually inked on the hands, ears, lips and shoulders, chest, thighs of the natives as a part of their tradition. Their special designs are being used in modern tattoo art too.
- Chinese Tribal Tattoo Designs – Several Chinese tribes like Li, Drung and Dai have also been known for their prominent tattoo art, which finds place in contemporary tattoo designs created by modern artists today.
- Borneo Tribal Tattoo Designs – The island of Borneo is also popular for its tattoo art, with ancient tattoos from these tribes being considered as talismans against disease and pain. The main design elements used in the traditional tattoo art of the tribe were the skulls and roses.
Some other tribes which have provided tribal tattoo designs as the basis of modern tattoo art include the Taino tribe of the Caribbean Sea and the Haidas from the west coast of North America. All the tribal tattoos have carried traditional meanings as explained by the tribal cultures they came from, but today, it is more of the aesthetic value rather than symbolic meanings of these tribal designs, which have carried them to gain a place of importance in the contemporary tattoo art. Moreover, creative tattoo artist have modified these tribal designs and incorporated some additional elements to them to make them more suitable for today’s trend. Yet, tattoo enthusiasts around the world appreciate these designs for their originality and uniqueness, and they continue to be high in demand despite introduction of numerous new and modern designs.
Placement of Tribal Tattoo Designs
Tribal tattoos are of great popularity among men and women, with their visibly striking impact and aesthetic value. Tribal designs make liberal use of black ink, done in the form of thick swirls and lines, which look really impressive and prominent on the skin. These designs display space filling features, making them flexible enough to be placed around the body. Moreover, these designs can look as good on darker skin tones as they look on fair skinned people. They are mostly seen on the arms, legs, shoulders, wrist, finger, ankle and back. Women get tribal tattoo designs on their lower back, with the design spread all over the back area. Besides the conventional tribal tattoos, the tribal design swirls can be used as an outline or frame for some other tattoo designs and they tend to make them more appealing and striking. Another use of tribal tattoos is that they can be effectively used to make a change in any existing tattoo design, which the bearer wants to get concealed. Even a large tattoo or a name can be easily covered up with the help of bold swirls used in tribal designs.
Celebrities with Tribal Tattoos
Tribal tattoos have been endorsed by several leading international celebrities, who have brought these designs into vogue by wearing them. Some of the global celebrities who have played a key role in popularizing tribal tattoos include big names like Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock, Jamie Fox, Mike Tyson, Pamela Anderson, Johnnie Depp, Robin Williams, Cheryl Cole and Anna Kournikova.
Pros and Cons of Tribal Tattoos
Tribal tattoos are widely preferred because they are superior to regular tattoos in many ways. The usage of black ink in tribal tattoos in generous quantities makes them fast enough and these tattoos seldom get faded. These tattoos also have the feature of versatility as there are no hard and fast rules about creating these designs, with many expert artists using their creativity to create unique designs. Also, they look great at many places around the body, particularly on the sleeves and legs, because they have bold appeal. On the other hand, there are certain cons of tribal tattoos too, such as they are hard to conceal or cover up with other designs later, when the bearer wants to get rid of them. Removal of the tattoo is almost impossible because of their large and bold designing. Also, it is hard to find an artist to replicate the tattoos of specific tribe with complete authenticity. In fact, even a small deviation from the original pattern can hurt the sentiments of the natives of the tribe and invoke anger from them. Therefore, tribal designs need to be done with great care and attention to the smallest of details.