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8 Places To Find The Historical Art Of Tattoos Around The World

8 Places To Find The Historical Art Of Tattoos Around The World

It's no secret that people are attracted to the idea of getting tattooed to remember their travels. Some get inked with something personal to them that reminds them of their experiences, while others enjoy getting a tattoo in the traditional style of the places they've travelled to, partaking in cultural traditions and learning more about the historical significance of the tattoos they receive.

The art of tattooing is definitely not a new concept and can be traced back ages and ages. In some countries, tattoos were done as a right of passage and were deep with symbolism and administered for ceremonial purposes.

While there are many others we didn't mention, we've put together a list of some of the most intriguing and beautiful styles of tattoos from different cultures around the world for your next tattoo inspiration, and for a unique way to immerse yourself in a new culture.


Polynesian Culture | Samoa

In early Samoan/Polynesian culture, tattoos were done as a right of passage, typically on males aged 14-18, when they hoped the young men had stopped growing so the tattoo would not stretch or become flawed in its beauty. The process involves dipping the cutting tools into the ink and then tapping the tool into the skin, similar to Thailand's bamboo stick-and-poke method, however, these tools have small barbed needles on the end; more needles the larger the surface area of the skin tattooed; slightly more painful than other methods. Tattoo styles are different for both men and women. The style for men called Pe'a is usually represented in chunky blocks and are meant to cover the area from the waist to above the knees. The style for women called Malu is usually more delicate in linework and done from the knees to the upper thigh.

Berber Culture | Morocco

Berber or 'Amazigh' tattoos have a long history in Morocco. The symbols and linework used in these tattoos are influenced by indigenous culture native to this area of North Africa and are as much a communicator as they are a form of adornment for Berber women. Typical placement of the tattoos would be found around openings: around the eyes, the nose, the navel, even the female genitalia; meant to highlight the vulnerable places of the body. While the traditional placement of these tattoos might not be your first choice today, the symbols, like a tree, representing strength, or diamond shapes, for the protection of personal space, or 'khamsa', for protection from the evil eye are seen in many variations of modern-day tattoos.

Maori Tribal | New Zealand

The Maori tribes use a technique called Ta Moko to tattoo their faces and bodies in beautiful tribal designs. These designs vary in meaning from prosperity to family to travel to even your career paths and are considered to be highly sacred. With Ta Moko (used for facial tattoos only), Maori men tattoo their whole face, while the women stick to the lips, chin and nostrils and is considered to be one of the most interesting forms of beauty in Maori culture. Maori tattoos are also called Kiri Tuhi and can be placed anywhere; Kiri meaning skin and Tuhi meaning art. Patterns like 'pakati', representing the warrior or courage and strength, or 'unaunahi', representing abundance and health are tattooed in a spiral or curved formation around shoulders, chest, or other parts of the body. Next time you're in New Zealand, seek out this traditional style for your next tattoo.

Mandala | Buddhist Culture

The mandala, the Sanskrit word for circle, originated in Buddhist Culture. As a tattoo style, the mandala is a series of flowing lines and shapes that radiate out of the centre of the circular designs, meant to represent eternity, completion, and the universe. They are also meant to display a sense of harmony, with all outer points of the mandala being equal distance to its centre. Buddhists usually have mandalas incorporated into their rituals and meditation to help align the balance of body and mind, and long before they became a popular tattoo choice ancient monks would make these elaborate circular designs with sand. There are many different styles of mandalas so it's easy to make each one special and individual to the person receiving the tattoo.

Henna | India

While temporary, henna is a beautiful tattoo and art form that involves intricate painted designs that stain the skin, usually the hand or leg, with a pigmented paste made from henna leaves. The colours can range from orange to dark brown, and, while they are usually done only for Indian marriage ceremonies, have gained popularity for any number of occasions or simply as a personal choice. They last anywhere from seven to ten days, so if you change your mind frequently, henna is the perfect style of tattoo for you.

Sak Yant | Thailand

Traditional Thai tattoos, called Sak Yant, are unique for two reasons. The first is the combination of symbols and letters and script that make up the designs, and the second is the style in which the tattoos are administered. This process started when Buddhist monks would receive tattooed scripture for protection, and included the four elements: earth, fire, water, and air. The markings were considered to be magical, and the more you had the more you were feared by warriors. When receiving one of these tattoos, the needles are attached to bamboo rods and then the ink is tapped by hand into the skin. This style is considered to be the least painful of other styles around the world but takes a little longer depending on the size and detail of the tattoo. 

Hieroglyphic | Egypt

Hieroglyphs were Ancient Egypt's main form of communication, made up of symbols and pictographs to send messages and to record the history of their time. These symbols each had different meanings and tried to explain concepts like that of rebirth, the union of male and female, protection, creation and worship to name a few. Egyptian tattoos usually have a combination of multiple symbols like the Eye or R'a, Ankh, the scarab beetle and many others, and depending on the way they are placed together, have different meanings. If you're a fan of Egyptian culture, the pharoahs and other history surrounding the era, this would be the style for you.

Aztec Design | Mexico

The Aztecs were a fascinating group of people, so it's no surprise that their form of tattooing would be equally interesting and beautiful. This style of tattooing is greatly influenced by the historical, political and religious heritage of Mexico and began as early as the 12th century, including symbols and images to symbolize the pride of their roots. Today, Aztec tattoos are still used to show Chilango (now belonging to Mexico City) pride. This form of tribal tattoo is unique in its design and a beautiful choice for any tattoo-lover.


Are you a tattoo fan yourself? Any other cultural styles you love that weren't listed? Post a comment and let us know what they are! 


All photos courtesy of respective owners.

Featured Image: Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

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