Regardless of time periods, resources, or location, the value of tattoos between western people and aboriginal tribes do share a perspective. They both employ tattoos to express an idea. They both convey a consciousness to make a memory, static. The reason of this type of proposal is to attempt an unending history.
The sole link between people and tribes is that the fundamental reason for tattoos is to make language visible. These inked images represent brewing feelings; they are facts about the person they are etched onto. When words are unavailable, it is helpful to see and not be told that the wearer has experience courage or wisdom, motherhood or bereavement, is in punishment or of a community.
An extension of using pictorial language, tattooing encourages consciousness of the body. What people and tribes both share is an acknowledgment of time. While having a message put on wood, metal, or rock could defy an era, to do the same to the body—the one object that is certainty your own and will always be aware of—what is placed on it says That as long as I have this body, this image will live, and after I die, this image will exist.
Hereafter, the cause between the wearers of tattoos falls apart. While the design, precautions, maturity, and justified righteousness of tattooing residing amongst tribes, westerners are to politely keep their sleeves buttoned. And while there are people who are keenly proud of their inked body, they become an aesthetic, and psychological compensation is their reward.
Tattoos were fundamental to aboriginals so that you could tell who was your friend—from a distance. And upon approach, you could learn whether the other person was a spouse, of high ranking, an herbalist, from another tribe, or a deserter. Tattoos were the best in-person advertising that could save your life or get you killed. There is much integrity by having a tattoo because the day you obtained your first inking, you were considered an adult.
Tattoos in western society are largely accepted as a low-brow aspect of mainstream culture. For centuries, the art form was best revered by worldly sailors, criminals, and carnival shows—today, it is no more than a foot off the ground. Tattoos have been conditioned as a staple for atypical stock, and have acquired an obnoxious ultimatum of being rebellious. The trouble of getting inked is as convenient as flipping through a scrapbook and wincing under a buzzing pen (with the small possibility of being allergic to the chemicals involved). And the hype of getting inked—when not taken methodically—is actually impressed with liquid courage, a bet lost, or a looming curiosity over this inconceivable taboo linked to unsavory characters.
Once collecting the permanent image of a butterfly, thorns, a copyrited image, or even a Tribal design, there’s the dilemma of showing it. In formal standings, inked skin is disallowed, and to have one you can’t hide would narrow your career choices. At best, amongst strangers: it is a conversation starter if not a distraction. You could use tattooing as a secret fill-in of the hairline or never apply eye shadow again but you can’t use it proudly and with renown. Otherwise, there is a concept that you could actually have too many tattoos, or an image too big, wearing them like armor. Those are the weary cases that exclusively use the medium to redecorate the self, making the inside turmoil into a skin-deep beauty that is wholly ostracized if not found amusing. Through and through, western tattooing is an aesthetic.
It is with partiality that I compare the precautions of permanent ink in remote areas to how it categorizes humanity in 21st century boomtowns. Though in both communities’ the power of tattoo dictates life, the rulings are vastly different. I only wish that its reverence and hazard was translated and transferred, turning the western handicap into a life changing merit that is earned not bought.