Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tribal Back Tattoos

Tribal back tattoos are making a very impressive comeback in recent times, along with tribal designs for other parts of the body. These designs did have a period of popularity back in the middle of the last century, but have taken a bit of a back seat since then. Since the last decade of the previous century, tribal tattoos of all types have been back in fashion again.

Despite this, many people are still not fully aware of the history and tradition at the back of this resurgent trend. Although the designs themselves receive plenty of attention and publicity, it seems that the underlying reasons for them do not.

The tribal back tattoos which you regularly see paraded by young people today had their roots in the South Sea traditions of Polynesia. Although other islands in the Pacific Ocean have contributed handsomely towards the inventory of design we have available today, notable the Maori part of New Zealand, it is from Hawaii that the greatest contribution has come.

The Hawaiian tradition goes back to the original tribal elders, and has been handed down over centuries. The tradition in terms of design shows no sign of slowing down or disappearing, although the methods of application have changed somewhat.

As Hawaii is now politically part of North America, it is little wonder that Americans and other Westerners are taking further interest in the tribal traditions of the islands. Anyone above a certain age will remember the interest in Hawaiian shirts which was prevalent in the 1970s. Now, these shirts are still seen as having a cultural significance, although now it is a more backwards looking significance. The tribal tattoos, on the other hand, seem to be more in vogue than ever. What is the seemingly secret history behind the increasingly popular tribal back tattoo?

The Hawaiian tradition puts a lot of emphasis on body art in general. Often the art has no more deeper significance than just that. It is a work of art. The wearer simply uses it as a form of decoration. Of course, paying for decoration of the back makes more sense in a tropical climate, if it is for the purpose of decoration, yet back tattoos are increasingly common in the temperate Western world. This is a testimony to the old Polynesian belief that the tattoo helped create an identity for the person, even if only internally.

Hawaiian tribal tattoos can have a deeper significance. In some cases, these decorations were used as a way of immortalizing a lost loved one. The person always retained a part of the departed person on their body. In the primitive traditions of the tribal elders, these designs were even believed to bring protection to wearer, as a kind of bodily talisman.

Some of these designs are amazing in their intricacy, given the primitive way in which they were applied to the body. The beaks and claws of dead birds were used to apply the ink, which was made with dyed sugar cane. The resourcefulness and patience of both those applying the ink, and those receiving it, has to be admired. It was no easy task to be given tribal back tattoos.

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