Tattooing one's body, especially the face, has been an ancient practice of most Naga tribes living in Nagaland and across different parts of India. Essentially a tattoo signifies valor, bravery and the amount of heads beheaded by a warrior in the course of a battle.
During the ancient head hunting period, the Nagas treasured/preserved the heads beheaded from their enemies and proudly displayed them at the entrance of their houses. This rather macabre display signified bravery and inspired respect and awe from all the villagers. In those times, women of affluence were married to men who had fierce reputations as warriors and impressive physiques.
With the coming of Christianity, headhunting was abolished and nobody practiced it anymore. Consequently, the rich culture and tradition of tattooing one's face and body had almost become extinct for a long phase.
However, tattoo art has seen resurgence in contemporary times particularly in the past two decades. Today there are a few tattoo artists living in the villages whose skills are being passed down to the younger generations.
Tattoo art has seen a resurgence in contemporary times particularly in the past two decades. Today there are a few tattoo artists living in the villages whose skills are being passed down to the younger generations.According to a tattoo artist who lives in Delhi, tattooing is a flourishing business today. Sinister (name changed as per his request) says that his love for art started at a very young age. Hailing from a tribal family in Manipur, he had struggled a lot to establish his credentials as a tattoo artist after coming to Delhi. After he researched a little on the vanishing ancient tattooing culture of Naga tribes, he decided to use his skills infused with other modern art.
"Tribal tattoos are not easy to ink compared to modern tattoos. This is because there are no proper depiction of tribal tattoos just like it was in the past," says Sinister. "Therefore I decided to develop my tattooing skills in such a way that my work became a reflection (also blend) of both tribal and modern arts. This became an instant hit with my clients and I have done a lot of inking for many celebrities and actors across the world," he explains.
When asked if there is any scope for the younger generation to take up tattooing as a lifelong career, his answers were simple. "There are a lot of tattoo artists that exist in this world, but it is the uniqueness, hard-work and dedication which will make a name for you".
Sinister sums, "Like every other business, for tattoo art too you need to have a vision. You must be careful with whom you partner or share ideas with. Financially you can be stable, but you must always foresee what the future has in store for you. Competition is stiff in this sphere too and only a persistent spirit will help you endure."