My first decision to get a tattoo had a superficial excuse. Like any impressionable young people, it held a certain appeal above the art of ink in the skin.
Surrounded and growing up in a culture where tattos aren’t taboo but a celebrated art form on both men and women, the desire grew into a form of self expression. Specifically, my indigenous heritage. After thinking about a design for about a year, I took the plunge in, of all the places in the world.
I brought my own design and found a reputable studio. Wisely I did it on my last day there so I won’t need to skip the sun and sea. It’s a version of the bungai terung. A predominantly Iban pattern.
It was, honestly, painful. It might’ve not been as bad but the design I chose was pure black with no shadings. And oh Lord how it burned.
A year after my first broken skin, I decided on an even large artwork. This time I did it in Kuching. Suffice to say it made the first time seem like a tiny nibbling baby alligator. But I was satisfied.
It was a modern interpretation on the Tree of Life. With a little bit of the White Tree of Gondor. (You can tell I was mad about mythical iconography)
Any future design will most likely not contain anymore Bornean motifs. And no, traditional hand tapped tattoos arent something I care to try.
I already have a design idea in mind involving a bird. The desire for freedom from earthly bonds. Let’s see.
In case you didn’t know, ancient Borneo cultures held tattoos to be a sign of a new phase of life or rite of passage. Some ethnic groups regard them purely as tokens of how many heads they’ve taken. Women are tattooed to signify eligibility for marriage and physical perfection.
The saying goes,
“An unmarked man is invisible to the gods.”