It’s a wonder that indigenous tattoo traditions of the Americas haven’t been completely forgotten, after being practically erased during the colonial period of the Americas. But among indigenous communities, tattooing has seen a remarkable revitalization. For many people (in the United States and other nations), the simple act of marking the skin is a way to connect with indigenous life ways. It can express world views, and ground the bearer (as well as the artist) in a cultural and familial heritage. Native Hawaiian master tattoo practitioner Sulu’ape Keone Nunes, for instance, could tell you of traditional motifs of his cultural heritage that number well over 100 and that carry genealogical significance. Instead of the whir and buzz of an electric tattoo needle, Nunes uses a moli, a long thin tool made of wood and bone that’s among the oldest used in tattooing among Oceanic peoples.
Nunes is among the presenters at “Ancestral Ink: A Symposium Honoring Indigenous Tattoo Traditions” that takes place at the Santa Fe Art Institute (1600 St. Michael’s Drive) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18.
The event celebrates a resurgence of traditional tattoo practices among the world’s indigenous communities. Topics include regional tattooing traditions, methods, and designs; cultural protocols associated with tattooing; the personal responsibility of a person with a traditional tattoo; issues of cultural appropriation; safety practices; and other areas of interest.
Other presenters include Inupiaq tattoo artist Marjorie Tahbone (Alaska); New Zealand tattoo artist Te Rangitu Netana (Ngapuhi, Ngati Wai and Te Arawa tribes of Aotearoa); and Nlaka’pamux artist Dion Kaszas, a co-founder of EarthLine Tattoo School on the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, as well as others.
The symposium also features a panel composed of members of various California tribes who are a part of the growing indigenous tattoo revival. Video shorts from the 13-part documentary series Skindigenous will be shown, and attendees can meet panelists and tattoo artists, as well as see a demonstration of traditional tattooing techniques.
The event is free, but space is limited and registration is encouraged. Register online at sfai.org/event/ancestral-ink. Call the Santa Fe Art Institute at 505-424-5050 for more information.