Those two words tend to evoke images of Mike Tyson or fierce Maori warriors, but what about sweet old ladies?
Around the world there are women whose faces and bodies have been marked by lines of tradition. These women represent a dying custom deeply embedded in their culture and fiercely guarded. These facial tattoos are known as deq in Kurdish regions of Turkey and Syria where they are almost exclusively found on women above the age of 60. In regions of the Arctic, the habit is also mainly seen in the oldest Inuit and Inuk ladies. Regardless of locale, facial tattoos seem to be disappearing symbols of an age long past.
What really strikes me is the physical strength behind these facial tattoos. In all cases, the procedure for the tattoo involves the design being made through a series of small punctures made with a sewing needle. Then a sooty mixture is spread over and rubbed into the design, which scabs and heals over, leaving behind the sooty scars of the tattoo. This process can take months, and even years, to complete, particularly in the case of the Inuit tradition.
"A girl’s first tattoos, usually done in the face, on the forehead, cheeks or chin, were often excruciatingly painful, especially around the eyes, lips and between the eyebrows." via
It seems to be a generational thing, with younger generations much less likely to embrace the tradition. Perhaps younger generations are less interested in the time and pain required for these markings, perhaps they are viewed as old fashioned and "out-of-date". I mean, come on, you're getting your face and body sewn. Possible reasons for the disappearance of facial tattoos is hinted at in this article.
It seems, however, that these rituals are beginning to be embraced again by a small niche of women whose mothers or grandmothers wore these tattoos of tradition. I say keep the customs alive. Celebrate your heritage. Celebrate your identity. Only time will tell if these habits persevere or if they will die with the passing of the oldest generations. I can say that I truly hope the latter never happens.
Know of any other rad tattooed ladies? Let me know in the comments! I'm sure there are indigenous and ancient body modifications across the globe that are just wildly cool and I'd love to check 'em out!