Knowing the Traditional Indonesian Tattoo and Its Process – By Albar Tikam

Traditional Tattoo In Bali

Knowing the Traditional Indonesian Tattoo and Its Process – By Albar Tikam

The traditional Indonesian tattoo is so varied where some still exist until now. In the past, this tattoo art is done by several races in Indonesia where the people don’t have any other option and having a tattoo is a must for them. This tattoo is usually closely related to the tradition that they have and also with their belief. It means that the tattoo is not only for creating something beautiful in a human’s body, but this traditional tattoo mostly has a deep meaning. For example it can show a social class or as a symbol of someone’s lifestyle.

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Indonesia is one of the countries in Southeast Asia that has several traditional tattoos. Those methods are so interesting that they make a lot of people want to know more about it or even want to try the traditional Indonesian Tattoo. Below are some of the traditional tattoos in Indonesia.

Titi Mentawai – Indonesia 

First of all is the traditional tattoo from the Mentawai Race where this tattoo is called ‘titi’. This tattoo is used as a maturity symbol and a life journey of someone. In the past, someone who must have this tattoo is the kids who will enter their teen period. It is because they are claimed as an adult, independent, and is able to get married, and can survive for their own life. A ‘Sikerei’ or the Mentawai shaman will create that tattoo with a tool called patiti. Before that, a ritual named Punen Patiti will be held, casting spells and working potions, and slaughtering a pig. That ritual is done at the beginning before tattooing was done. The ink used for titi was taken from the soot and sugarcane water. The first tattoo will be created in someone’s finger as a symbol that a man was not dependent on his parents anymore. Titi Mentawai was also functioned as the position pointer and degree of a user. 

The Dayak Iban Race, Kalimantan – Indonesia 

The next traditional Indonesian tattoo comes from the Dayak Iban Race in Kalimantan. A tattoo is their hereditary traditions and it becomes a symbol of identity, social status, and courage. Many years ago, the tattoo became a symbol that someone has done something in a war. That is why; the Dayak I-band tattoo design has a deep meaning based on its aim. For example it can be a symbol of repellent, reward, or even as a sign that something will happen. We can say that it has the sacred meaning and because of this thing, this traditional Indonesian tattoo couldn’t be placed at any place. There was a rule where a tattoo should place so that it will be in accordance with the meaning. Unfortunately, nowadays the traditional tattoo like this is not too much else found, but you still can find the traditional tattoo artists in some places in Indonesia such as in Bali.

The Moi Race, Papua – Indonesia

Moi Race is the original race that lives in the Sorong Regency and they spread almost throughout this region. The Moi Race is also known as the Malamoi has a traditional tattoo where the ink was made from the smooth charcoal. This charcoal is called ‘yak kibi’. It is basically charcoal made as to the result of wood burning with langsat tree sap. The traditional Indonesian Tattoo from the Moi Race has various kinds of motifs or designs. The one who is claimed as the symbol of beauty is the geometric shape or the rounded line shapes and also some dots with tridiagonal shape.  

The design of this tattoo can be based on the people’s body or the area where a tattoo will be placed. Based on the story, the Moi Race tattoo culture was introduced by an Austronesian teller from South East Asia. He was then migrated to Sorong. However, now mot many youths of this Moi Race tattooing their body anymore because of some reasons such as the era’s development and they will unable to work in certain institutions in Indonesia. Well, maybe you can try to have the traditional motif of this tattoo to remind you about the traditional culture and tradition in this country.

Those are the three popular traditional Indonesian tattoo cultures that we can share. Maybe there are still some tattoos cultures which are available in Indonesia, but these three are the most popular one. If you want to have that kind of original tattoo, you can go to some places in Indonesia such as in Bali where there are a lot of professional tattoo artists who serve the traditional tattoo methods such as hand poking and hand tapping; they also serve the common modern tattoo that uses the electrical machine. You can choose one based on your own liking and more. 

The Traditional Indonesian Tattoo and its painful process

The Dayak Race tattoo usually has nature motifs or everything related to it, such as the birds, trees, flowers, and more. One thing for sure is that the original process to make this tattoo is so painful. It is because they use the traditional equipment and for sure the anesthetic used is not as good as the medical anesthetic. However, nowadays some of the Dayak Race begins to use the modern equipment where they still do it based on the tradition left by their ancestor. The traditional tools to create the traditional Indonesian tattoo from Dayak Race are so unique. They use ‘sajai’ or ‘samak’ in an ‘L’ shape, a thorn from an orange tree or flowers stalk, and for sure a wooden beater. 

The ink was made from natural ingredients such as the jelaga ink, charcoal, and sale dammar. The thorn will be flanked by the tanjai tip and then thrust into an area of your body where the tattoo will be created. That thorn will be hit by a wooden beater until the skin was bloody and created the expected motifs. It is the reason why it was so painful. However, nowadays doing the traditional Indonesian tattoo was not that painful, especially if you chose the right tattoo studio.

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