By Reba Maybury
Maellyn Macintosh is in the process of creating an exciting series of documentaries about tattooing in various cultures, but to complete all of the work that has been created so far she needs backing. You can read more about what Maellyn has created so far and watch a trailer of footage made so far.
In the first episode proposed Maellyn will travel to remote regions of India to document the indigenous tribes who use tattooing and piercing as an essential way of life, for healing, as a form of currency and as a form of religious devotion.
Here is Maellyn’s background to the documentary series so far:
Tattoos, piercing and scarification are now becoming mainstream and the taboos surrounding them are slowly vanishing. But where do they come from and why were they used?
Indigenous communities have cut, coloured, pierced and shaped the body for centuries as part of complex rituals; for identity, beauty, healing, spirituality, coming-of-age ceremonies, and even occasionally as punishments. There are still some communities who live as they did hundreds of years ago but most are being forced to integrate into western society, by threats to their land, resources and customs. Maellyn wants to tell their stories before they are lost forever.
Maellyn became fascinated by body modification while filming with a group of modern body modification artists and performers in London. Her curiosity lead her to begin researching the origins of these practices and in December 2010 she took a camera and made a trip from Kathmandu in Nepal, through Central India to Southern India. In Nepal she met the older tribeswomen with beautiful tattoos, whose grandchildren wouldn’t dream of tattooing in fear of not being offered work. In Central India she met the fascinating Baiga tribe, natives of the forest who use plant medicine in their tattoos, which are also placed on pressure points for healing. The women of this tribe wear their tattoos with pride as they are considered a currency which can be passed on to the next life. She also met the nomadic and elusive Ramnami tribe, a low caste tribe whose facial and full body tattoos bear the name of the upper caste god, Ram.
Now she will return to spend time with these tribes to understand what tattooing means to them, documenting the ceremonies, healings and tattooing process. She will also travel to Orissa to spend time with the spectacular tribes of that region with their beautiful tattoos and piercings.
Maellyn has chosen to crowd-fund the first episode, taking the project one step at a time. If she is able to raise more than the initial stretch goal, this will be used to begin the next episode.
As part of the project she will also create a colourful photography book, to document her travels and the stories of the people she meets, using Lomography cameras to highlight the colourful peoples and bright landscapes of the region. Here are some pictures we took as a test at Seven Seas Tattoos in Eindhoven, The Netherlands (click on the link):
Lomography camera test
She will also take small instant cameras to give to the communities so that they can document their own practices and have something to keep for themselves. This will be one way to ensure that future generations don’t forget the ways of their ancestors.
For us, this is the start of a long adventure, many journeys and fascinating stories. This is just the beginning, and we are so grateful that you have chosen to be a part of it!
Donate here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sacred-skin-in-india