You want to leave a mark on those around you, don’t you?

Well I did. Quite literally.

When the pandemic came around, bringing truckloads of free time into my life, I jumped onto the stick-and-poke bandwagon. Like every other Gen Z kid.

I wanted to give myself something unique. A tattoo that said something about who I was and expressed what was important to me. Something that would set me apart from those around me. That got me thinking about why people get tattoos in the first place.

We like to think of tattoos as signs of rebellion. Body art that helps people stand out, and express themselves. A one-of-its-kind canvas that expresses our individuality. Tattoos are anything but.

Historically, cultures all over the world have used permanent body markings. But they weren’t necessarily markers of individuality.

Tattoos identified a person’s position in society or denoted their tribe or stage of life. They were communal. Shared. Imagine getting matching tattoos. Not just with your bestie or your significant other. But with every other person in your community.

This history of tattooing around the world has fed my fascination for how different traditions have used and continue to use tattoos as part of social, cultural, religious and spiritual practices. Like the Thai Sak Yant tattoos.

Which brings me to the India Ink Archive. Artist Shomil Shah crowdsources images, stories and histories of the scarcely-documented tattoo traditions of India. But the largest archive of tattoos is on people, skin etched with reminders of communities and culture. 

Of course, tattoos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. They’re painful, painfully permanent, and potentially regrettable. There are plenty of cover-up tattoos on the Internet that I won’t direct you to. Instead, I’ll leave you with some dots and lines to follow as they come together to create wonderfully intricate patterns.

Ria

P.S. Leave a lasting impression on your friends. Introduce them to the treasure trove that is Just One Thing!