Body art, body modification, tattoo, whatever called, it is an art form that is a staple of several cultures across the globe. It is arguably claimed to have existed since 12,000 years BC, with purposes varying from culture to culture and its place on the time line, but there are commonalties that prevail form the earliest known tattoos to those being done today on college students here in Indiana. Though the art is very wide spread, the following will mainly be concentrated on three culture areas, the Islands of Polynesia, Early Japan, and modern America.
Body art has been a part of Polynesian culture since people first landed there. From Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island, natives have worn tattoos for a variety of reasons. The Maori men have ornate full body markings and even some women have chin and lip tattoos that coincide with their descent. There markings are sort of a family crest, that designates there social status. In Samoa, the Pe'a, a full body suit, represents initiation into adulthood. No matter what accomplishments one might have, the males are still considered boys until their Pe’a is complete. When a young man is deemed ready to receive the Pe'a, a tattooist is chosen, and the process begins. Once
The American tattoo does reflect upon out society as a hole; however. Although not as elaborate as the males, it is still of great importance. Women here have more markings than in other areas. Our word 8220;tattoo8221; comes from the Polynesian word 8220;tatu8221; which literally means 8220;to mark something8221;. A needle attached to a bone chisel is fashioned and blessed by the tufuga ta tatau. It has been used as a write of passage into adulthood, a ritual for marriage, and even to instill fear. The sailors of the navy made many vast travels picking up things from the cultures they encountered. The navy was mainly responsible for the introduction of the tattoo. The Japanese ritual for marking was similar to the Polynesian in nature, though not as religious. The Japanese form of traditional body art is known as the Horimono. With its deep ritual meaning, the art united the common people of the culture. Our culture is that of a melting pot with many influences coming from various areas. People came from all over the world, bringing there ideals, and visions of body art, and it is reflected in the style. Based on images from watercolor paintings, woodcuts and popular picture books of the time, the ultimate reward for the long endurance of pain would be a tattoo of immense beauty. It was in this period that the established feudal system based on the authority of the ruling samurai class began to stagnate, and in contrast to the martial upper class the commoners began to develop their own separate, unique culture for themselves.