Topic Two - Decorated Body : LUSENET : Dress, Role & Status : One Thread

The desire to adorn our bodies, either by supplement or modification, is thought, by many critics and writers, to be the most important influence on what we 'wear'.

Body modification is a powerful, and often indelible statement of our desire to adorn. Should we call it responding to fashion or fantasy? What do you think?

-- Anonymous, March 08, 2000


Body Decoration

Originally tattooing was a part of ancient cultures and was as much a part of a warriors dress as anything else. The Japanese and the New Zealand Maori's perfected the art of body marking with the use of artistic designs and bright colours. To the Maori tattooing was part of their culture and was as a symbol of their heritage and in some cases an indicator of their status. For example high ranking males were heavily tattooed from head to toe.

During the war years tattooing became popular amongst soldiers and sailors. They used this form of permanent body marking as a patriotic sign of their love and commitment to their country and also their fellow comrades. For some it may have been a deliberate act to mark a point in their lives or to bring them luck, for others it was possibly the result of a drunken night with their fellow servicemen whilst on leave from their duties.

Although tattooing began as a cultural thing, it has become more popular and indeed fashionable. People choose to decorate their body in this way for many different reasons. Some people believe that body marking is a way to express their personality and portray their individuality. In fact tattoo's can be very unique and individual. Many younger people simply chose this form of body art as a rebellious thing, more often than not to unsettle their parents who would more than likely be against this form of expression. Other youngsters have probably acquired their body marking after succumbing to peer pressure to fit in with the group. Many people simply like tattoo's and look upon this form of body modification as an art form to be admired. For whatever reason a person chooses to permanently mark themselves it is now more socially acceptable than it used to be. Social values have changed over the years and are now more relaxed.

On a personal level, I have never considered having a tattoo and quite frankly I don't find them very appealing. Particularly large tattoo's which cover whole body parts such as the back or leg. I just don't have the desire to permanently mark myself in such a way. I guess it all comes down to personal taste.

One thing I always find interesting though is how people that have tattoo's are often trying to hide them or cover them up. In many everyday situations revealing a tattoo on your bare skin or beneath an item of clothing is not really acceptable. For example, being able to see a tattoo on a person's arm through their shirt at a business meeting or worst still a job interview, is not really a good idea. In these situations the person is then forced to wear a T-shirt beneath their business shirt even on hot days. Then there are people that realise that the decision they made to decorate their body wasn't one of their better ones. The removal of a tattoo can be a very painful (so I hear) and there is the chance that they may be left with scaring after the procedure.

Whether you believe that body modification is fashionable or not is, like almost everything in life, a personal choice. What is attractive to one person may be repulsive to someone else. I guess "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", as they say.

-- Anonymous, March 18, 2000

The Decorated Body

Whilst walking around the city in my lunch breaks, I made a conscious effort to look out for different forms of body decoration to help with the discussion of this topic. From my observations, I can say the art of tattooing is back and it's back in a big way! Many people, both young and old, are now adorning their bodies with tattoos. The younger generation, however, tended to display far less elaborate art works. Their tattoos mainly taking the form of small celtic symbols or animals, arm bands and the rose are still very popular.

Given that the art of tattoing has made a resergence in the past few years, I decided to go to the book shop to see if there were any tattooing magazines available. As I expected, there were a number to choose from. They were primarily made up of people showing off their tattoos. These were often accompanied by a short story about the persons tattoo or tattoo's, detailing its significance or importance. There were also a few artists profiles and adds for upcoming tattoo shows. (These I did not know existed!) After reading a few articles I began to understand why someone may want to get a particular tattoo. In many of the interviews it seemed that the tattoos had some important meaning to them. In other cases, young people had just sercummed to peer group pressure or were out on the town one night, got drunk and woke up the next morning with a very sore spot. Generally you could say that the more elaborate the tatoo the more meaning it had.

Also, whilsts serching on the internet I was surprised as to the number of web sites that could be found on this topic. Again, I can only surmise that the increased interest in tatooing has caused this result.

Tattoing dates back to ancient times and began as a cultural thing. It can be followed through history beginning with the Ancient Warriors. Tattooing in these times however were usually used as a representation of a persons status, a symbol of heritage or as a record of courageous acts. I am currently reading the novel 'Solomon's Song' by Bryce Courtney which gives a detailed insight into the way in which tattooing was used by the Maurie Tribes in New Zealand back in the time when Australia was known as Van Demains Land.

Now, however, it appears that tattooing has become a fashion statement. If you've got one 'Flaunt It'!!!!! Once upon a time people that had tattoo's were forced to 'cover them up' unless they were in a situation whereby it was thought that tattoos were a socially acceptable thing. For instance, in the work place, employees were required to cover up tatoos as they were not formally acceptable in these circumstances. Now a days this way of thinking has been relaxed somewhat and it is now not considered mandetory for all tattoos to be covered up. From a personal perspective, I have never wanted to get a tattoo and I can't see what all the hype is about. I don't personally like tatoos however if a person chooses to decorate their body in such a way I believe that it is there perogative to do so and society should not outcast them in any way. We are all individuals and we all have a need to portray ourselves in different ways.

Tattoos can be an ancient custom, a piece of art, a rebelious act, etc. and each is as important to the person as the other.

-- Anonymous, March 22, 2000

The Decorated Body

The articles posted to date are quite descriptive about the history of tattoos and describe many situations where different people in various communities have acquired tattoos.

One of most interesting points (I believe) to come out of articles posted, was the mention of soldiers and their desires to have a tattoo, and what the tattoo stands for to the individual. When a soldier gets a tattoo, it is widely accepted as a symbol of mateship or a union through the good and bad times. This is still a very common practice for soldiers to have themselves tattooed in the current era.

The mateship / teamship theory is growing in popularity, with many sporting groups following the tattoo trend. For example, some athletes who compete in Olympic games get tattoos to commemorate the event. It is also becoming very common for AFL footballers (and many other sporting groups) to acquire tattoos after playing in winning the premiership teams. For both of these examples, I tend to think that is not only for commemorative purposes but there is also the influence of fashion in their decision making process !

With such growth in the tattooing industry, it is very interesting to think about the tattoo representing a rebellious act. As they become more and more popular as fashion accessory, the use of the tattoo to convey rebellion is reducing in effect. I agree with the previous writer, that wider community is becoming much more accepting of the tattoo as a fashion accessory, and thus, the perceived requirement of people to cover their tattoos in public is becoming significantly less of an issue.

In terms of decorating the body, I feel the tattoo is much more widely accepted than the piercing of the body. Body piercing also has a significant history in certain cultures, where the piercing of body parts may represent things such as stature or wealth. Body piercing, like tattooing is becoming more popular and, from my own perspective, I no longer consider it to be purely a rebellious act, but often a personal expression of an individual's fashion taste.

-- Anonymous, March 22, 2000

The Decorated Body

Matthew and Peter, our discussion seems to have mainly centered around tattooing as a form of body decoration. We all have agreed that, whilst tattooing has been around for many years, there has been a significant increase in this artwork in recent years. Peter, you also touched on body piercing as another form of body decoration and I agree to that tattooing seems to be much more widely accepted than body piercing is, despite also a recent upsurge in this form of decoration. This got me wondering. Why do people choose to have their body pierced? Do we find its roots somewhere in history (as with tattooing) or is it an act of rebellion? It may simply be a persons way of expressing themselves! Im my opinion a pierced earlobe is as far as I would go. I don't particularly like the look of earrings all over a persons body. But, each to there own I suppose.

I have searched the web and found many interesting sights. There were a number of shops I visited and I must say I was extremely surprised at the range of body piercing jewellery that is available. We have all seen earrings, and more commonly now the nose ring and navel ring however there are many more elaborate pieces of jewellery available such as bar bells, spikes, octogans, nipple rings just to name a few. These items too are becoming more and more popular as individuals are forever trying to express themselves.

Body piercing has been around for a long time and it is probably most readily associated with the nose piercing in South Asia / India or the elaborate ear pieces of many African Tribes. The body piercing here however is a representation of a cultural value/stature in society and not necessarily a persons expression of oneself. With further research I found that in the late 70's body piercing dawned as a homosexual expression. Interestingly though, it grew in popularity during the punk/rock period with teenagers embrasing the art of body piercing as an act of rebellion. In recent years however, body piercing seems to have become a fashion accessory. The trend thing to do! Fashion designers find models with interesting forms of body piercing to model their garments. By doing this, the fashion designers are telling the public that their clothes are meant to be accommpanied by some form of body piercing. Without it, the look would not be right! Models are consequently replaying its popularity and encouraging the public to get pierced. The more interesting the piece the better.

From another perspective, given that we live in a multicultural society, is the art of body piercing simply our acceptance of these many different cultures we live amongst and consequently us just incorporating these cultures into our own.

For instance, the nose stud is becoming more and more popular. The reason for this could be that we have simply accepted the ways of the South Asian / India cultures and have adopted them for ourselves. Or, is this act looked down upon by these cultures as the nose stud popularity today has grown as a form of decoration and does not take into account the original cultural beliefs/meanings. What do you think?

-- Anonymous, March 23, 2000

The Decorated Body

Lisa, Matthew,

I found it very interesting when (Lisa) mentioned about the use of piecing in cultures such as the Indian society. When I mentioned the topic in my earlier article, I was actually thinking about what my reactions were during the period that piercing was becoming popular in the community. Specifically, if I saw an Indian person with a nose stud, I would not give it a second thought, but if I saw a person (one that I did not associate their culture with piercing) I would take particular notice. Personally, I think a nose stud or a navel ring, and maybe the nipple ring can look good on some people. (that is, once I get over the "that must have really hurt !" thought process).

For me, a very strong indication that piercing is becoming much more accepted, is the increased amount of people working in shops, cafe's (etc) that have all sorts of piercing on display. To this point, I firmly believe that piercing is really a fashion accessory, and like tattooing is losing the rebellious image. (Although I not naive enough to think that any one from a chartered accounting firm is going to turn up with their nose pierced!).

At my local newsagent (St Kilda) there are nine different magazines on tattooing but none specifically on piercing, although there were many articles where piercing was mentioned in these magazines. From research on the internet, I found many sites dedicated to the decorated body. If you're interested, have a look at this site "" and click on the "Body Piercing" section. (nb. "bme" = body modification ezine)

The notes for this topic mentioned scarification, and I must say I had never heard of it before. From my research I have discovered that it is body decoration in the form of scars  and it seems to be quite popular. It is done in many ways, some of which include, cutting the skin with knives or razor blades, or the use of heated instruments (metal, wire etc) to burn the skin to make scars. Scarification, like tattooing and piercing has origins in some early cultures, where the scarification process was a type of initiation in manhood or the recognition of some other stature in life. You can check it out for yourselves by visiting "" and clicking on the "Scarification" section. There are two articles on this site which detail personal experiences, which apart from the gruesome aspects, I found really quite interesting (notably, "Scars from Africa"). It seems form these articles, that part of the appeal of scarification is the e endurance of pain required to gain the end result. All up, very interesting.


-- Anonymous, March 26, 2000

Personal taste

After reading all the different information about body decoration on this online discussion, I want to ad more about why people get tattoos.

Outside the western world, in third world societies the permanent body art have always played an important part in expression and reinforcing social relationships, values and society itself. Like non-permanent body decoration such as, make up, jewelry etc. tattoos and piercing can help to define the boundaries of a social group, identify sub groups within a community, mark differences of status and role etc.

In the west there is parallels to the third world tribes and tattoo traditions. Skinheads, bikers, punks etc. are using permanent body decoration for the same reason as tribes in third world. To show where they stand in a community and social status.

Only a 15 years ago anyone in the West who wanted a tattoo would have had to choose a blue-bird or a traditionally "Mother" from the boards which tattoists nearly always relied on to show off their designs. And the person that would get the tattoo would know that thousands of other people would be walking around with identical designs. Todays new generation of western tattoists on the other hand are eager to make each tattoo design that they execute unique.

This means that something like personal taste is not that personal, Its how the society and the culture you live in react towards what you do with your life. Personal taste is obviously depending on the society and culture.

I have a tattoo myself and I have been trying to figure out why I had it made, but I cant. Because I was obsessed with this Canadian band a couple of years ago, I got there symbol tattooed on my under arm. I had the tattoo done after my obsession with this band kind of turned more into a more normal thing. And I think I had the tattoo made because it reminded me of how things used to be when I really liked this band. So I guess Im a bit sentimental. By the way, I went for an job Interview here in Melbourne with a short sleeve shirt, and I got the job.

-- Anonymous, March 26, 2000

re: Personal Taste

Daniel, I'm glad someone as joined the discussion group that actually has a tattoo because I have some questions for you. You have actually answered my first question which was - Why did you get the tattoo. Another question I had was - Do you now wish that you no longer had this tattoo (because it meant something to you some time ago but that meaning is now no longer as significant as it used to be) and Do you find yourself wanting to cover it up so everyone stops asking you about the tattoo? Would you ever consider getting it removed? (A very painful experience I here!)

I have spoken to a number of people that have got tattoos and the responses to these questions were mixed. I found that a lot of people that got tattoos when they were young now wished they no longer had the tattoo. Often people got tattoo's which mimiced a particular fashion trend however I think sometimes the foreverness of a tattoo was sometimes forgotten. Tattoo's are not like other forms of body decoration such as piercing, jewellery, makeup etc that can move with the times. A tatoo is there to stay whether the fashion trend still dictates it or not. What are your views?

Peter, I too had never heard of scarification and had briefly come across it in my investigations. I can't say that I would ever be interested in this for of body decoration however I found the sites you mentioned quite interesting just for general knowledge purposes. I don't believe this form of body decoration is very popular in todays society (correct me if I'm wrong)and that it was more common in ancient warrior times. I do remember however that when I was in early secondary school it was common for students to scratch out their boyfriend or girlfriends name on their arm with the point of a compass and then tip ink from a pen into the open cut. Scarification if I'm not wrong!

I personally think that a way a person chooses to decorate their body reflects their own individual personality. I think people have been decorating their bodies in many different ways and that it has been happening since man was made however in todays society I think that body decoration is somewhat influenced more by the media, the fashion industry, music cultures, etc than from cultural meanings. What do you think?

-- Anonymous, March 28, 2000

Body decoration

Well, it seems like now the discussion of body decoration was mainly focused on tattooing and piercing because the issue of tattoo and piercing are the new-rising fashion of these days.

From the previous discussion, I could find that there were four different points. Firstly it was about the origin of tattoo and its cultural and ritual role as a symbol of their status and heritage and also record of courageous act. Secondly, as a cultural role the reason of having tattoo changing for personal expression and fashionable reason. Thirdly the reaction from the society towards body art and finally what if you want remove the permanent tattoo.

Now days why people like body decoration and the reasons are..varied to each individual person. though, young people's opinion is that they want to have something that is their own thing and different from what others have. Tattoos have meaning and expression of their own identity and character. Also, some people have body art done for a memory like a birthday or graduation from school. I remember that I have seen big huge dragon tattoos on whole body of front and back in television.That was strong impression i got that time. it didnot seemed to be beautiful art but horrible and brought me fear that scared me. Some people like groups of gang have a body art to show their fearlessness and enduring pain as representation of their strength. Another reason of doing tattoo is that today's trendfor fashion and this trend is heading to extremes such as a burning or cutting.

As a rebellious act: 'Young people want to show that they are living their best years, a time ti believe they are very different and very special. And as a special person, they believe themselves to be people who are able to break rules. Or may be they still believe they will be the first ones who have wished to change things. Believing in new ideas, new models and new assemblies..' this was from angela's(brazilian teenage gril) opinion of why young people want to look rebellious. Young people have their tattooed bodies and colourful hair as another way to show society that they are here to take their place and to make their changes.

In new modern society, we require, new architects, new clothes, new body and new mind to make new society. maybe body decoration is part of chaning our society and it is personal expression of it as body decoraion is a form of symbolic communication.. "it convey messages about age,sex and social status from one individual to another, but also internalizes the communication linking the social and biological aspects of the individual personality with the values if their society."

-- Anonymous, March 30, 2000

kinds of body decoration

It is important to know what is body decoration which is body adornment in order to understand deep meaning of it. Thus according to one of definition, body adornment is a term for a variety of techniques aimed at adorning or decorating one or more parts of the body or less temporarily either habitually or for special occasion.

Therefore as body decoration, there are:

Tattoo Tattooing can be identified as a body modification that changes surface design and colour of the skin and a permanent wave as a modification that transforms shape and texture of hair.

Piercing it is temporary body modification that once inserted object is removable and the skin usually closes with time. Create a small tunnel in ones skin and flesh usually in a protruding portion of the earlobes, nostrils, nasal septum, lips, eyebrows, nipples, genitals etc.

Adhesive tattoo this is removable adheive or decal tattoo. It is simply a type of mass-market adornment as aform of make up.

Body painting Body painting the term has become in more limited way thus body painting refers to colouring all or large portions of the nude human body.

Brading A form of scarification usually achieved to burning the skin with heated metal. The practice has its roots in the branding of animals in order to mark them as their own property and among humans, in slavery in Egypt and Rome and so on. Slaves were marked with non removable collars and often by branding them with a specific England or France brandinfgwas used to mark criminals or heretics a practice that continued up to the eighteenth century.

Cosmetic tattoo Cosmetic tattoos are most often used to modify and enhances the size or direction of ones eyebrows or to add a beauty spot. It is also called as permanent make up.

Cutting This is a step further that tattooing. In tribe cultures, such cutting was performed as a therapeutic meaning or more psychic forms of pain, for example the loss of a partner, friend or relative. Also endurance of pain and resulting respect one earns with that particular subculture.

Foot modelling This is cultural part of body adornment.. this has been practised in China only to women. It is called as golden lotus as a sign of beauty, it is ultimately an expression of male possessiveness to prevent flee from her husband or at least to take less able to take a strong physical stance.

Henna designs This is somewhere between the practice of body adornment with ash, paint or make up and the tattoo. Usually apply to hands or feet, henna paste creates intricate tattoo-like designs that lasts about two to four weeks.

Make up It is suprising to know the method of make up in different period of time and cultures. What is regarded as accepted and proper make up changes from time to time as fashion does and from society to society. In last decade a form of tattooing has arrived in the beauty parlours of most contemporary societies. This cosmetic tattoo is also called permanent, make up in an attempt to avoid the stigma that has surrounded in most modern western societies.

-- Anonymous, March 30, 2000

The decorated body. To Lisa Maree Wood.

I find it quite interesting that you have chosen this topic. It is a topic that has obviously created a lot of tension between families and the people of Australia for quite some time know. Unfortuntaely I myself do not agree with the idea of body decoration. I did have my ear pierced once when I was about fourteen years of age. It hurt and I don't think that I will ever do it again. Unless I am payed a lot of money. You have been taking notice of the people in the streets of Melbourne and you have expressed your opinions. Well although you are on the right track you still have not given the topic enough heart. You have to be elaborate with your personal findings. Tattoos seem to have stories behind them I know this, but you need to understand the belief that the majority of tattoo owners have when it comes to price, culture and overall character. This however is not a topic I wish to enter into. Good luck with the rest of your book. I to have found the websites on body decoration quite interesting. All though my knowledge in the matter of scars, tattoos and piercing is good anyway. If people chose to decorate their body then so be it. It is a matter of taste and opinion. All though many people whom are in the media spotlight at the moment seem to have body decoration, and are keen to maintain this image as long as their image sells. Tattoos ,as you have already mentioned date back thousands of years, and this obviously plays a big role in today's fashion.

From Dean Burlock

From Dean Burlock

-- Anonymous, March 30, 2000

Decorated Body - Anne Sande

Body Modification can relate to many topics that civilisation has had the priviledge to adopt in it's very minute existence on this wonderful planet. Unfortunately it is very hard to classify human trends and distinguish them between fashion or fantasy. These topics that I do talk about are ear peircing, tatooing, hair color, hair cuts (maybe), deliberate scarrring, tummy tucks, nose jobs, eyebrow tints, eyebrow structured surgery, ear clippings, chin lifts, lipo-suction, lip thinning or fattening, eye color changes(or contact lenses), hair transplanting, and then there is off course the mutality such as the tighetining of joints, particuralary the feet, a ritual carried on by asian woman. Then there is the belt that woman would wear to squash their waist creating a sharper body shape. You couls almost mention tortue in a sense because that is what the acts of mutality are. Allthough official tortue was carried out by the barbarians of old, and still is carried out today. Yet in relation to fashion it has not precedent. In terms of power and our desire to adorn, I refer to a recent case in Los Angeles, USA. A man in his mid twenties, has spent a lot of money and time in turning his body image into a lizard. And I mean a lizard. He has chilsed his teeth in such a way that they are pointy like a lizard, he has colored his hair green, completely covered his body from head to toe in lizard scales, by means of tattoos. Filed his feet, had earings put in, contact lenses and is currently working on creating more things he can do to create his image of a lizard. I can not see the sense in this allthough the cameras do and his has been receiving alot of media attention lately, and could become quite wealthy from this stunt of stupiditiveness. In this case the man was obviously involved in a fantasy. His knowledge and overall fantasy are something that cannot be missed. He is very passionate about his fantasy and will do anything he can to maintain it. Yet he was obviously aware that it was starting a new fashion, and hoping that people will follow in his foot-steps, or donate money to his crappy-cause. It entirely depends on the person and their standing in society. Bikers, athletes, actors, models, politicians, gang members, and normal people all have tatoos, and some have morals, stories, and precedents behind their body modification. The thoughts can very passionate, like a biker, or an athlete, or very normal like a drunk, a love-struck couple, or a dickhead teenager.

-- Anonymous, March 30, 2000

Decorated Body

I was very interested in Daniel's comments on why he decided to get a tattoo so I thought I would get another insight from a good friend of mine who lives overseas. He has two tattoos, one on each arm. I rang him yesterday to ask him exactly what it was that made him do it. He told me he had wanted a tattoo since he was 16 (he's now 28) but wanted to be absolutely sure that he was making the right decision, after all you can't simply just rub it off. It took him 5 years to make that decision and thankfully for him, it's a decision he is very comfortable with. The only problem was that after having this tattoo on his left arm he felt "uneven" (his words, not mine) and he then decided to have another one on his right arm to even things up. Both of these tattoo's are military in style. They have nothing to do with fashion or fitting in with a crowd, he simply chose to adorn his body in this way. He doesn't want to have any more tattoo's he is quite happy with the one's he has. He has no regrets and will never have them removed.

In relation to body decoration by scarification, just like Lisa I had never heard of it. So I did a little research. Ouch! I find it very strange that someone would want to do this to themselves, it sounds very very painful. Even more painful than having a tattoo, which my friend tells me is painful enough thank you very much.

Well call me boring but I have absolutely no desire to decorate my body by any method used in this discussion. And as far as scarification is concerned, my appendix scar is all the scarification I can handle.

-- Anonymous, April 02, 2000

Decorated Body

Hello Everyone,

I would just like to say a few words to provide my own summation of some of the information that I have read in this forum and also add a few things I have come across since our last discussions.

I have found this a very interesting topic, especially exploring the origins of these forms of body decoration. The historical information has been very interesting, but I my current view of piercing and tattooing is that they are fashion items in the modern environment. I had a discussion with two of my work colleagues today, to find that one already had a tattoo and the other is getting one this Saturday ! Scarring as form of body art does not have the same appeal, but I think that is directly related to the very painful sounding information that I read about on the internet (for the site reference - see my previous article). Although I doubt very strongly that I will be getting a tattoo, in general they look pretty good !

My local library (St Kilda - City of Port Philip Library) has a book called Tattooing - The exotic Art of Body Decoration (author; Michelle Delullio) which has some quite good information about the history of Tattooing and some of the particular cultural meanings behind them. However, the most interesting thing I found was reference to the tattoo as a marking device, as was used in some prisoner of war camps. I found it very interesting as all of our discussions have had the implication that the people involved received their tattoos voluntarily (perhaps with the exception of some of the cultural tattooing). This article was part of the information available at the reference desk at the same library as mentioned above.

Thanks for the interesting information.

Peter McLoughlin.

-- Anonymous, April 05, 2000

decorated body

While there are many different types of body decoration, the main stream ones have been discussed (tattooing and body piercings) and although scarification has been briefly discussed I found it really interesting to why people get it done. As it is not as popular or well known in Western societies in countries such as Africa, Nigeria and parts of remote Australia it is a common occurance. The reasons that scarification is so popular in these countries has a lot to do with their cultural beliefs. A lot of the scarification that is done in these cultures has to do with rituals that occur during adolesence that celebrate the begining of becoming an adult. In one tribe that I have read about: the Nuba women recieve traditional scars wtih the onset of puberty, these scars are done on the forehead and chest and although it is a painful process and may seem unappealing to many Western societies, it is a great honour for these women. One internet site that I visited: explains what scarfication means to the African culture. It is described as: traditionally considered marks of civilisation. They distinguished the civilised socialised human body from the body in its natural state and from animals. Scarfication also serves as a sign of character as well as being considered "beautiful to look at and arousing to touch but it is also proof of stamina and courage." In Australia, Aborigninal tribes still use this form of body decoration, this is done to deal with their pain of losing a loved one, they inflict deep wounds on themselves as a mark to remember the person. It is not always done through guilt but rather to allievate the grief over the loss. I find it amazing that these intricate designs have so much meaning and honour behind it, I also went to the internet site that Peter went to and found that some of the people who had these scars done also did it for their own personal beliefs (one girl had it done because she was studying about a culture that perfomed this and it inspired her to have it done.) but some people do it for the sake of having it done- another challange to conquer. It is much the same with tattoos while some people have a reason to get a tattoo others do it because "everyone else is getting it done." When I finished high school there were a group of girls who went out and got cartoon characters tattoeed on themselves, many of them got these tattoos done because they didn't want to be known as the only ones who were too scared to get one done. The only part of body decoration that I have had done is having my ears pierced which is such a common occurance today that people don't even think about it any more and having my naval pierced and while I liked it for about 6 months I soon got sick of it and took it out, that is the good things about piercings- once you are feed up of them or you can't wear them to your place of work you can take them out and no one would realise. In a book that I was reading about body decoration (Return of the Tribal: a celebration of body adornment) it summed everything up nicely in the conclusion the author collected peoples "examples of peoples irrational temptation to pass judgment without first looking at the facts" Some of them are quite interesting and very true to life as it is done every day. One of them was: "A young teenager with metal inserted in her eyebrows nose and lips finds it crazy that someone else would undergo surgery in order to put hair back on his bald head." This just shows that we live in a judemental world and we have all conformed in one way of another to the body decoration world.

-- Anonymous, April 09, 2000

Decorated Body - Beauty or a Painful Reminder

The input so far on this topic has been very interesting. I thought that Matthew Martin's summary of the history of tattooing was insightful, particularly the comparison of Maoris who have adopted body tattooing as part of their cultural heritage.

However, the majority of contributors have focused on where tattooing originated from or Lisa's brief summation of how body piercing started in many Asia and Indian countries.

I would like to add that tattooing has been used not only for cultural or for self gratification, but also to identify or mark people.

This was no more so evident than during World War Two, where the Nazi's applied a tattoo to every Jew. The tattoo was an individual number that identified who that person was. Not only was this extremely denigrating to the Jewish population, but Nazi's knew that body tattooing is against the Jewish law. Jewish law states that if a Jew bears a tattoo, then that person cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Therefore, in this context the body tattooing applied to the Jews during World War Two is a daily painful reminder to those Jewish survivors.

So, as Sarah pointed out, in some cultures tattooing is considered a "symbol of honor", but for Jews it is considered taboo and in many cases a painful reminder of the past. I also found it interesting that Sarah commented that Aborigines scar their bodies as a symbol of losing a loved one. This seems to be a ritual that dates back to their ancestors.

Like Matthew, I have never considered tattooing my own body, but I do not consider this to be a vulgar activity. Indeed it appears to have become a very popular thing to do, as Lisa observed while walking around the city during her lunch breaks.

I agree with the literature that I have read that suggests that body tattooing is done to partly self-gratify people. It is also an expression of one's personal beliefs and personality.

Tattooing and body piercing has also become more socially acceptable. As Lisa Maree Wood explained "Fashion designers find models with interesting forms of body piercing to model their garments". Further, tattooing has developed into a significant industry. I was watching a documentary on body tattooing on Foxtel last month, which attempted to explain why people decide to decorate their bodies.

Unfortunately, the documentary failed to explore the origins of tattooing as Matthew, Lisa, Daniel and Jae explained. Rather, it focussed on how tattooing industry generates around 1 billion dollars each year in the US and the many tattooing competitions that are held. One of the biggest tattooing competitions in the US is held in Dallas each year, where hundreds of competitors display their bodies from neck to toe. Something that does not really excite me, I must say.

When I was researching the topic of body tattooing, I came across many interesting Internet sites. I recommend visiting

-- Anonymous, April 11, 2000

Decorated Body

There has been much discussion on the culture and origins of tattooing. Matthew provided examples of how tattooing became part of a warrior's dress and a symbol of Maori's heritage.

Rarely has an artform been so diverse as tattooing. The ancient Greeks who considered everyone non-Greek as barbaric, observed and condemned tattooing The ancient Romans observed it among Gauls, Britons and Germans. The Romans also tattooed slaves and convicted criminals and regarded tattooing as a mark of low estate.

From further reading, I have discovered another interesting perspective on how tattooing has been applied. Russian prisoners adopted tattooing from as far back as the 1920's. According to the book of Genesis, God placed a mark on the world's first murderer before sending him to exile. The mark of Cain indelibly branded its bearer as a criminal and social outcast.

According to Soviet researchers, photographs that were discovered indicated that Russian prisoners formed a tattooing subculture since the 1920's. The tattoos that were adorned by prisoners varied, but were often politically related ie, Stalinistic. The tattoos also illustrated inmates' disgust and contempt for the Russian legal and political systems, with tattoos indicating how rebellious the prisoners were. It was unlikely that these hardened prisoners were keen on concepts of becoming reformed. The tattoos were also symbols that indicated where the wearer fitted in to the prison's complex social structure. Phrases of a highly negative nature were also incorporated into the tattoo's design. For instance, the article said one of the common phrases was "For a convict, prison is a crime college". The article went on to suggest that convicted female gang members sometimes preferred the simple declaration, "People are wild animals".

According to the article, between the mid 1960's and 1980 over 35 million people were incarcerated, and of those, 20-30 million were tattooed. That's a huge number of people and is proof that tattooing in Russian prisons was in-fact a complex activity and not conducted in an ad-hoc fashion.

From the number of submissions to this topic, it is clear that tattooing has been part of human society since history has been recorded. Some cultures have tabooed tattooing such as Jews and ancient Greeks and others have embraced it as a sign of heritage and honor. No doubt tattooing will be with us well into the future and will still be viewed in varied ways.

-- Anonymous, April 11, 2000

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