#AHAmoment: Ulijona on messages on the body

Tattoos have been around for thousands of years, and their popularity now is greater than ever. But they still arouse negative opinions in certain quarters – and in some places, it’s even forbidden to show them in public.

For the longest time, tattoos have been used to send a message – for example, about the wearer’s age, the fact that they belong to a certain community, or to communicate a spiritual meaning. Anthropologist Lars Krutak found that certain Pacific island communities used tattoos to indicate that they belonged to a specific culture, but with the arrival of European explorers and the Western culture they brought with them, these local tattooing traditions started to fade away.

Krutak’s research also reveals the way tattoos are used to mark significant life events, or to indicate a person’s place in society. Due to globalization and increasing cultural exchange, tattooing styles that were once unique and specific to a certain place or people have spread all over the world, and today we can see all kinds of tattoos on human bodies. What messages we want to project, and how we read the messages sent to us by others, is entirely in our hands.