Please note that the 1st floor of the GRASSI Museums für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig with the permanent exhibitions Asia and Europe is closed until further notice.

(un)professional - Workshop A

[Translate to English:] text 1

The fact that people decorate and alter their bodies is not a new phenomenon. In addition to clothes and hairstyles, images and jewelry – tattooed and pierced through the skin – also adorn human bodies. Long before the global triumph of the electric tattoo machine, invented in 1891 by Samuel F. O'Reilly in the United States, various tools for tattooing and piercing were developed. Despite the high accuracy and efficiency of the electrical machines, different techniques are still being cultivated. For example, Samoan tattoos from Aotearoa / New Zealand use a baton of bone or fish teeth to chisel the paint under the skin with the aid of a bobbin. The focus here is not only the motif but also the act of tattooing: it is often a ritually regulated social action that helps to shape collective relationships.

The person who creates the tattoo, and the decision about the way it is done, has often been negotiated and decided elsewhere.

© Torsten Illner

[Translate to English:] text 2

Techniques, meanings, and motifs of tattoos and piercings are subject to constant negotiations and reinterpretations, not only by the wearers but also by those who mark the skin with ink and set jewelry. Wandering tattoo artists traveled throughout Europe with their mobile equipment and offered their services up until the early 20th century. In 1919, Christian Warlich opened one of the first professional tattoo parlors in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg, Germany. Where tattoo artists formerly had to go through many years of stages of learning or were ritually trained in Samoa, a growing popularity of DIY tattoos can be observed in recent years. It is a form of tattooing which is not practiced within the framework of structured social relationships or in professional studios but is carried out individually with self-made machines - often a nuisance for professional tattoo artists who see this as a violation of their years of skills learned.

© Torsten Illner

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© Nana Funke

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