The art of body painting has been practiced throughout the world by various cultures and tribes for their ritual body painting events. In fact, evidence of tattoos has been discovered in Eurasian dating back to Neolithic era. Among the ancient tattoos are those "Ötzi the Iceman", dated at 3300 BC, several tattooed mummies in Tarim Basin, some of them dated at about the second millennium BC, a tattooed Mummy from the permafrost of Altaï, dated 300 BC and the Man of Pazyryk, discovered during the 1940s. Natives of Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands and some parts of Africa are still painting their bodies as their ancient ancestors did before them. Many of the cultural traditions and customs from this area are fast disappearing as the modern world takes hold.
The Andamanese people are the various aboriginal inhabitants of the Andaman Islands, which is the northern district of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands union territory of India, located in the southeastern part of the Bay of Bengal.
Experts estimate that the Jarawas - essentially hunter-gatherers - came to the Andamans 60,000 years ago. They are just one of several indigenous tribal groups living in the Indian Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal. Short, with dark skin and curly hair, they resemble African bushmen in appearance. Today, however, the tribe is on the verge of extinction
Body painting is still widely practiced among all Andamanese groups. It has deep (if unclear) spiritual significance but also was (and in some groups still is) the Andamanese way of dressing up.
Among Andamanese the rare white clay was used only in one strictly traditional pattern, the so called snake-pattern, lines zig-zagging in a particular way across the body, which in some ways corresponds to western gala or formal dress. This clay and its associated pattern was applied across the entire body for large gatherings and dances involving two or more local groups. It was also used at the dance that marked the end of the mourning period and after a wedding ceremony when the bride and groom were painted in this way.
|Jarawa girl with facial body paint. Bodypaint is not very often seen among Jarawa. This girl may have put it on for the special outing.|
In 1863 the superintendent of the convict settlement forbade the Greater Andamanese at Port Blair body painting on the grounds that it was "degrading and barbarous." Others protested against this, feeling that the Andamanese (who were not convicts, after all) should not be interfered with and claiming body paint as a substitute for clothes without which the natives would be exposed to chills and the ridiculous order was never enforced.
The Kaiapó are a powerful and well-known Brazilian tribe who live in an area that is almost the size of Austria, with villages along the Xingu River, in Mato Grosso, across the Central Brazilian Plateau. The Kaiapó territory is formed mostly by tropical forests. They call themselves "Mebengokré," meaning 'the men from the water place'. The name kaiapó was given by the neighboring native tribes, which means "resembling apes" and it was probably given because the men used to dance with monkey masks.In 2003 the Kayapo population stood at an estimated 7,096. Within their vast area, there are many subgroups and some of these smaller communities are known to exist in virtual isolation, having little direct contact with other Kaiapó.
The Kaiapó have a long history of contact with others. Since the initial arrival of Europeans around 500 years ago, the Kaiapó have experienced forced migration further west into the rainforests as a result of invasions, they have lost land and habitat and they have also suffered from the introduction of diseases that accompanied the arrival of outsiders.
|Amazonian chief of the Rikbaktsa tribe. The Rikbaktsa, who are also called "Orelhas de Pau" (Wooden Ears) and "Canoeiros" (Canoe People) have a reputation as being fearless warriors .|
Kaiapó culture is characteristically rich and complex. Their appearance is highly decorative and colourful, using face and body paint, beads and feathers. The Kaiapó believe their ancestors learnt how to live communally from social insects such as bees, which is why mothers and children paint each other's bodies with patterns that look like animal or insect markings, including those of bees. Women shave the distinctive V shape into the scalp and men ceremonially wear the flamboyant Kayapo headdress with outwardly radiating feathers, which represents the universe. The rope of the headdress is a symbol for the cotton rope by which the first Kaiapó is believed to have descended from the sky. Traditional ceremonies may last many months and mark the beginning and end of seasons as well as rites of passage. Their beliefs are linked to their environment, which they rely on for sustenance and material resources.
Body painting ritual for funeral in Kuraup. Amazonian Indians in Kuikuro village, in Brazil's Amazon High Xingu park hold a two-day festival to mourn and celebrate the lives of dead heroes.
The Kuarup funeral festival is the one of the most important indigenous ritual that is being happening annually in July or August for centuries. It is an occasion for getting together of many different tribes to reflect, celebrate and honor the dead. The Kuarup festival is a celebration of life through dance, music, rituals , games and food. At times outsiders are allowed to participate, but not always, as it depends on the approval of the tribal elders.
The Yawalapiti, is one of the 14 tribes living inside the Xingu National Park. Their quarup, a funeral ritual is also a celebration of life.Their culture is immersed in decorative art, and it has many shamanic symbols. Like the ancient Greeks, Yawalapiti are also a sport loving tribe with swimming, gymnastic, and wrestling matches in which both young men and women participate in their elegant body painting.
Yawalapiti-Girls wrestling. Like the ancient Greeks, Yawalapitis are also a sport loving tribe with swimming, gymnastic, and wrestling matches in which both young men and women participate in their elegant body painting.
The Yawalapiti colorful rituals are rooted in their rich mythology that is informed by the upper Xingu cosmological repertoire. According to the myth the demiurge Kwamuty, while smoking tobacco over wooden logs in his secluded area of the forest, brought the primordial first women, one of whom was the mother of the twins Sun and Moon, who became the parents of humans. It was to honor this mother that the first itsatí (or kwarup, in kamaiurá) was celebrated.
A Yawalapiti-man paints his body in the image of the mythical sun. It was a time of chaos, when the first mother gave birth to the twins Sun and Moon. The everlasting darkness overcast the world. The fireflies were the only light, and the birds defecated from the sky making everything go rotten and disgusting. There were no fire on this vast wasteland. The twins then get into a trade negotiation with the invisible two-headed vulture,añu wikiti , the owner of the sky, offering him a rotten bait in exchange for light, and thus successfully created the day. The light is symbolized by adornments made of red macaw feathers, to represent the mythical sun who uses a headdress and armbands made of its feathers.
Many of the Yawalapiti rituals represent the human encounter with other creatures and phenomena belonging to three elemental spheres; earth, water and sky. The earth is divided between ukú, the forest, the abode of animals and spirits, and putaka, the village, the society of mankind. In uiña the rivers, and iuiá,lakes, live the fish, and the aqua-spirits. In añu naku, the sky that is ruled by the birds and their king, the two-headed vulture, reside the souls of the dead. The owner of the earth, Wipiti itsitsu a fat spirit-woman with only one breast; lives in the "belly of the earth", below the ground, where she breastfeeds the female dead and copulates with the male dead.
The Indigenous Park of the Xingu can be divided in three segments: the Lower Xingu to the north, the central region of Morená in the Middle Xingu , where the rivers; Ronuro, Batovi and Kuluene converge, and the Upper Xingu to the south, where the feeder rivers of the Xingu; which make up a basin comprised of the Von den Steinen (the principal feeder river of the Xingu, where it meets with the Batovi-Ronuro), Jatobá, Ronuro, Batovi, Kurisevo and Kuluene rivers flow. According to the Upper Xingu legends Morená is the place of creation of the world.
The Yawalapiti-Women help each other to paint their bodies for partaking in a festival. The administrative demarcation of the Indigenous Park of the Xingu (PIX) was ratified in 1961.The idea of creating the Park took shape during a roundtable discussion organized by the Brazilian Vice-President in 1952. The intended project was much larger than what finally was created in 1961, and signed by President Jânio Quadros, its area corresponded to only a quarter of the surface area initially proposed.
The two expeditions of the German ethnologist Karl von den Steinen, in 1884 and 1887, made the whites aware of the existence of the indigenous peoples of this region. In the 1980s, the first invasions by white hunters and fishermen took place in the territory of the Park. The forest fires, ignited by cattle ranches at the northeast of the Park, at the end of the 1990s were exacerbating the advance of lumbermen to the west. Moreover, the occupants of the surrounding areas began to pollute the headwaters of the rivers. The indigenous inhabitants of the Park felt threatened in their “enclvae” of forests, amidst of ever-expanding pastures and intensive agricultural land use. During the 1990s, the Indians’ started a significant number of new territorial lawsuits, and won two of those, which resulted in inclusion of the Indigenous Lands of the Wawi and Batovi to the park in 1998. The fight is still ongoing, such as the Wauja's campaign, who are negotiating for the region called Kamukuaká, which is considered sacred and is located on a ranch next to the Park.
|Peru aboriginal with snake pattern (rhombus) on the forehead.|
Maori are the native people of "Aotearoa" New Zealand, and their particular story is both long and interesting. According to verbal records, archaeological discoveries and genetic explanations, historical treatise place the arrival of Maori in New Zealand in the 13th century AD. According to archaeological evidence, tattooing came to New Zealand from Eastern Polynesian culture. The bone chisels used for tattooing can be found in archaeological sites of various ages in New Zealand, as well as in some early Eastern Polynesian sites. These Moko facial tattoos, each unique and culturally important, served as the person's unique identity.
The use of full facial Moko tattoos died out among the Maori by the end of the 1800s, although the native people continued tattooing other parts of the body. During the last three decades tattooing has experienced a cultural renaissance throughout New Zealand society. Artistically, the country's tattooing is so influenced by the patterns and traditions of the Maori moko past that it constitutes its own genre.
|The lower back through the buttocks and down to the knees were frequently tattooed as well in what is called Puhoro. The shape of the tattoo on the buttocks was invariably a swirling pattern.|
|Ethiopians tribes of Suri, Mursi and Me'en that inhabit the southwestern part of the country are known as Surma. Here Surma children are displaying their body paints.|
|Body painting of Mbwela people of South Africa|
‘Lip disk’, is a decoration used by some tribes across Africa, the Kayapo of Brazil -- where senior men wear a saucer-like disc, some six centimetres across, in the lower lip; as well as by Inuit tribes in northern Canada. The practice is gradually becoming extinct and today,the Mursi, Chai and Tirma are probably the last groups in Africa amongst whom it is still the norm for women to wear large pottery or wooden discs or ‘plates’ in their lower lips.
The practice of full body tattoos is associated with the Japanese Yakuza, one of the most powerful organized crime syndicates in the world. It is Japan's version of the Mafia, with 85,000 members who trace their roots back to 17th century Samurai warriors.The history of Yakuza can be traced back to the Tokugawa era, when Ieyasu Tokugawa unified the shogunates of Japan. The era of the shogunate, was a prolonged period of civil war, and the new tentative era of peace left as many as half a million of samuraies unemployed. Many of these warriors having no other means to support their family turned to banditry for survival, forcing the merchant class to give-in to their extortion activities.
It is in defense against these wandering samurai that the Machi-yokku, or servants of the town, originated. These folk heroes were regular townsfolk who challenged the violent activities of Yakuza to protect the well being of their families and town. Like gangs of today, they were tightly knit and spent their free time gambling. Yakuza have always prided themselves upon the code of Bushido, or way of the samurai. Violent death was traditionally seen as a poetic, tragic, and honorable fate, and the concepts of Giri and Ninjo are central to the relationships among members. Giri, or obligation, refers to the strong sense of duty that is felt between members, and in a sense is the "social fabric" that binds much of Japan together. Ninjo is roughly translatable to emotion, or human compassion, and denotes "generosity or sympathy to toward the weak and disadvantaged, and sympathy towards others." This tie to chivalry and patriotism gave the Yakuza a sort of Robin Hood type of romantic image when viewed in the public eye.
The Shinto festival is a popular convention held in the Asukusa district of Japan each year. The show provides a platform to display full body tattoo designs for members of the yakuza living in the area. The more conservative section of society considers the practice of full body tattooing to be a barbaric tradition. Indeed the very first tribes to settle in Japan such as the Ainu and Wa people were known for this practice. The practice is rapidly declining today and the number of people learning the art has also declined which is contributing towards the extinction of this art form.
Native Americans are known for their body paintings and it is said that the first white settlers in North America called them “Red Indians” because of the way they painted themselves with ochre. The paint acted as a shield against evil and also protected them against vicious insects. Face painting is considered to be an important tradition among them as a sacred social act of distinction and a cultural heritage. On special occasions faces of the tribe members are painted to augment one’s appearance and power.
|Watercolor drawing of an American "Indian in Body Paint" by John White circa 1585-1586|
Each tribe of the Indians has its own and unique way of face painting. For Native Americans Indians, roots, berries and tree barks are most commonly used to make the dyes for face painting. These natural raw materials are ground and made to a pasteto make the dye. Clay of different hues is also used in Native Indian face painting. The process involved a strict ritualistic order, that was maintained during the application of these colors. The colors were first applied around the nose and only the index finger and middle finger was used for the application. The rest of the face i.e. the forehead, chin and eye areas were then carefully covered with paint. For some face paintings they would cover their face and then plaster it down with mud leaving the holes for the eyes and mouth. Generally the warriors would paint their faces with colored clay. They would then do the design of their tribe. Each tribe has its own designs for war and ceremonies.
Like the Aboriginals in Australia and most indigenous cultures, American natives considered ochre sacred and infused it into their everyday objects like clothing, tools, pottery, rawhide, etc. Trade for pigments among tribes and later with European traders expanded their palette of colors.
Of more than 1 billion population of India about 8 per cent, or roughly 82 millions, are Adivasi, or the indigenous people, whose ancestors started to inhabit Indian subcontinent about 10 to 20 thousand years ago. The term Adivasi in Sanskrit literally means "original dwellers", or indigenous population. While Adivasi are only a minority in the country, in Arunachal Pradesh they constitute an overwhelming majority of about 90 per cent. Since ancient times, Adivasi people have been squeezed out of their traditionally inhabited territories and away from fertile lands, making them to retreat into remote mountain areas. Therefore, Adivasi have lived in a relative isolation for a very long time. The tribal communities have been referred to as "primitive", "uncivilized", "exotic", "savage" and "barbarian". Only during the recent years, the attitude has started to change, and we can witness more recognition and appreciation towards the rich cultural heritage and peculiar lifestyle of these people.
Mehndi, a traditional art of drawing with henna, is part of the Indian and North African wedding ritual. Even today, some body painting is used before the wedding, involving the bride's hands and feet.
|The mehndi is an important part of Indian marriages and Indian brides are usually very excited about their elaborate mehndi designs on their hands and feet.|
In South America, some natives still use huito, annatoo, or wet charcoal as a body and face decoration. In some cases,the design will last several weeks, and is usually referred to as henna tattoos. Body paint made with a combination of clay and other paint mixed together. If the painting was limited to the face, it was then known as face painting. There are body painting events that are held worldwide for all artists both amateur and professional. The largest event held for body painting artists is the World Bodypainting Festival held in both Seeboden and Austria. In the United States there are shows held in upstate New York, American Body Arts Festival, and then the US Bodypainting Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Agnieszka Glińska is a choreographer and artist from Kraków, Poland, who has founded Art Color Ballet, a dance theater company in 1998. She has integrated contemporary dance with body painting, collaborating with various artists; including photographers, stage designers, musicians and others to create multidimensional and unique artistic performances for which the company is regularly awarded at various international body painting festivals. Glińska's creative deployment of stage decoration, music, dance movement and body painting creates a truly stunning aesthetic experience.
Natalia Stahl’s ‘Chinese Mood’ is an example of beautiful body painting that transcends time. Stahl has painted her model with traditional China cultural symbols, like Chinese characters and gorgeous sprawling vines and flowers, and outfitted her in gloves and a cap that would look right at home during the Roaring Twenties.
Emma Hack, an Australian artist, started her career as a children's face painter, qualified hairdresser and make-up artist. She gradually moved to body painting of world acclaim. In March 2001, Hack won the coveted first prize at the CIDESCO World Congress Professional World Body Painting Championship in Hong Kong. In 2004, The Adelaide Cabaret Festival utilised Emma's exhibition skills to feature a collection of celebrities painted as their cabaret persona as an exhibition during the festival. In 2005 she collaborated with Deborah Paauwe in her Dark Fables collection, featuring Emma's illustration on the faces of Paauwe's subjects. Her Wallpaper series in 2005, 2007 and 2008 collections featuring Florence Broadhurst wallpaper designs combined with her body illustration has exhibited during the Adelaide Fringe Festival, along with nude landscapes and a continued collection of Florence Broadhurst wallpapers. It was during this collection that she began photographing the installations herself, evolving her art further. Emma's photographic images were exhibited at Art Sydney 08.
|The artist creating the image of a Bengal tiger|
Born and Raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Craig Tracy decides what to paint when he sees the model's body, then applying water-based paint to his volunteers' bodies before photographing them.
In ancient China, Tattoo has often been associated with criminals and bandits since at least Zhou Dynasty (1045 BC to 256 BC). Tattooing Chinese character "Prisoner" (囚) or other characters on convicted's or slave's face was a practice until the last dynasty Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912). Tattoos, however, has also often been referenced in popular culture. Tattooing has been featured in one of the Four Great Classic Novels in Chinese literature, Water Margin, in which at least three of the main characters, Lu Zhishen (鲁智深), Shi Jin (史進) and Yan Ching (燕青) are described as having tattoos covering nearly the whole of their bodies. Wu Song (武松) tattooed his face after killing Xi Menqing (西门庆) with vengeance. In addition, Chinese legend has it that the mother of Yue Fei (岳飛), a famous general of the Song Dynasty, tattooed the words "Jing Zhong Bao Gu"o (精忠報國) on his back with her sewing needle before he left to join the army, reminding him to "repay his country with pure loyalty". Marco Polo wrote of Quanzhou "Many come hither from Upper India to have their bodies painted with the needle in the way we have elsewhere described, there being many adepts at this craft in the city."
Chinese Landscape: Tattoo #2. Huang Yan, 1999
Liu Bolin, from Shandong, China, manages to camouflage himself in any surroundings, no matter how difficult they might be. Liu works on a single photo for up to 10 hours at a time, to make sure he gets it just right, but he achieves the right effect: sometimes passers-by don’t even realize he is there until he moves. The talented Liu Bolin says his art is a protest against the actions of the Government, who shut down his art studio in 2005 and persecutes artists. It’s about not fitting into modern society. Despite problems with Chinese authorities, Liu’s works are appreciated at an international level.