Carrying on Ancient Traditions: Neo Tribal Tattoos

Carrying on Ancient Traditions: Neo Tribal Tattoos

In this awesome selection of tribal tattoos, we bring together modern takes on ancient tattooing practices and patterns.

They are an ever fixed mark upon the skin, as well as the tattoo community itself. These Neo Tribal tattoos hark back to the very roots of all tattooing, which is incredible to think about. For 5,000 years humans have been expressing themselves through this permanent art form. It's pretty poetic if you think about it, and these images of tattoos should show you some inspiration for your own piece. Once you tattoo your skin with a tribal inspired tattoo, you'll also be part of a long tradition that has deep and sacred cultural symbolism.

In our tribal guide to the history, styles, and artists that keep the ritual of tribal tattooing alive, we talk not only about the first examples of tattooing in the history of humankind, but we also show you some seriously cool tattooists who, using their own aesthetic and style, merge many different folk arts to convey certain pattern or ornamental tattoos...there are some tattoo artists, however, who do try to focus on particular tribal symbols and decorations that they are familiar with. 

Ciara Havishya of Sticks and Stones Studio in Vancouver, did a ornamental back of the neck tattoo that uses imagery found within the Croatian culture. Talking about the beautiful linework piece, Ciara says, "I added some Croatian decorative motifs to a healed piece I did in the summer. I generally like to stick to decorative traditions I know well already, but I make exceptions when my client is familiar enough with the patterns we’re using that I feel confident they’re being used appropriately."

Ciara brings up a very important point when getting tribal tattoos: we always need to make sure that we are using visuals wisely and without disrespect. This seems pretty obvious, but because tribal tattooing is steeped in the revered practices of antediluvian cultures, it's very important to understand the imagery and symbols you use. This goes double for cultures and tribes that are still in existence! We may think of "tribes" and the tattoos that accompany them as all from primitive illustrations but this is certainly not so. Aboriginals, Maori's...even Haida or Kaigani tattoos, a people who still reside in "Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands), British Columbia, Canada, and the southern part of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, U.S.". The art of the Haida, and other related arts, is immediately recognizable for the bold use of black and red on slightly abstracted animal forms. If you're ever looked at an Alaskan totem pole, you've probably seen these wonderful designs already!

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Maori tribal tattoos are, possibly, even more widely recognized, and they are still used by the ethnic group that resides mainly in New Zealand. Their tattoos not only inspired many traditional tattooists way back in the day, but they've also provided ample influence to contemporary tattooers as well. Very similar in stylistic aesthetics are the tattoos of another island people: ancient Hawaiians. They referred to the tattooing art form as "kakau" and much of the work has deep symbolism. These cultures who have influenced Neo tribal tattoos so deeply deserve reverence and consideration any time we decide to get a tattoo that may stem from their ancestral stories and symbols. Cultural appropriation can be tricky for people sometimes, and we totally understand that education is key: we're here to help you choose a tattoo that's perfect for you, as well as an artist who totally recognizes what you're about and what your dream ink is.

Tattoodo hopes to help you on any journey to get brand new pieces that you can always be proud of. If you ever have any questions, we're here to help!

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