IntroductionA study into the sociological characteristics and motivations behind body art- to understand the addictions/motivations behind tattoos- to exam tribal body art in order to understand its relevance within the tribe- to understand the symbolic messages of gang culture body artFor my project I will be looking at Body art. There are many different aspects of body art that I will belooking at thoroughly. Addictions and motivations behind tattoos will be one of the aspects I havedecided to examine. There are a high percentage of regular people who have tattoos, whether they besmall or large, therefore it will be interesting to know and find out what their motivations for thesetattoos are and whether they have some type of addiction that attracts them to “getting inked”.Tribal Body art is a very deep and expressive part of tribal culture. Therefore I will be looking into therelevance of certain aspects of the body art that tribal cultures have, whether the art has a specificmeaning to the person that has it or represents a specific attribute in their culture. Tribal cultures arevery large and in some cases the body art that certain cultures have is very sacred to them.In gang cultures tattoos are used too mainly remember an event in a person’s life. There are manydifferent kinds of tattoos that a well known to many different gangs and have symbolic messages behindthem that can have great meaning behind or just represent the name of their gang. - To understand the addictions/motivations behind tattoosIf you were approached by two people. One who wore a suit and looked highly intelligent and one whohad tattoos up his arms and on his neck, which one who you feel inclined to approach or make a businessrelated conversation with?
Would your opinion of a person change purely based on the fact that they have tattoos or don’t dresssmartly on a regular basis?Tattoos have been around for 5000 and have grown even more popular over the recent years. 1 in 10people now have one or more tattoos. There are many different types of tattoos from tribal and Chinesetattoos to bull dogs and fairies. People will get tattoos for many different reasons, these reasons caninclude; a highly important change in someone’s life, death of a loved one or other reasons that havehelped them to become who they are now. Other people will purely get a tattoo because they think itlooks nice and they want to decorate their body with art.People often rely on physical appearance of another person to create their first impression of them. Byjudging a person on their physical appearance such as; what they’re wearing, their hair, if they have bodymodifications; can inevitably create false image of that person’s personality and the way they act. Wouldyou judge someone depending on the type or tattoos that they have?There is a huge discrimination against tattoos in the work place. A long debate that has and probably willalways be carried on about how tattoos aren’t acceptable for a work place and the person that has themdo not look respectable or presentable enough. However when a celebrity chooses to get a tattoo theonly discussion is about whether it looks nice or it’s spelt correctly.(Joseph Farah, 2006)“WASHINGTON – You run a fashionable restaurant with a dress code for employeesand customers that discourage pierced tongues and noses. You are a personnel director at an upscaledepartment store known for customer service and refuse to hire women with prominent tattoos. Yousupervise a supermarket and require those with pierced body parts who handle food to remove thepiercings before reporting to work. According to legal experts in employment law, if you fit any of thesecategories, you are setting yourself up for lawsuits from members of a new activist lobby representingthe ever-growing population of those into "body modification.Tattoos and body modifications have become one of the most talked about topics in the 21st century,this certain trend is being worked into television adverts by major corporations. There are even children’sbooks that represent tattoos such as; “Mommy has a tattoo” and “Tattoo Colouring Book.” An interestingstory line is created in “Mommy has a tattoo” where a little body is frightened of a neighbour whohappens to be heavily tattooed. He then realises his mother has a tattoo also and realises not to be afraidof his neighbour.
Addiction is something that is highly associated with tattoos. Many people claim to be or are actually infact addicted to getting tattoos. There are a vast number of different reasons why someone could beaddicted to having tattoos and more or less these reasons may apply to most of the people that havemultiple tattoos on their body or are covered from head to toe. These explanations or reasons for beingaddicted to tattoos can be either physiological or social depending on the person.Physiologicalhttp://www.newlookhouston.com/blog/2010/06/28/15-reasons-someone-could-become-addicted-to-tattoos/Adrenaline, Endorphins or pain substitution/self-mutilation are all factors of a physiological nature thatcan influence a tattoo addiction. As tattoos can be painful the body responds by releasing adrenalinewhich most people tend to enjoy the adrenaline rush that they get from a tattoo therefore making it oneof the most likely culprits in causing tattoo addiction. Endorphins are released when pain is caused so thepain can be relieved; they are also associated with creating a natural “high” like exercise and orgasms.The chemical reaction between these created an increased drive and even creates the addiction thatsome people have to getting tattoos.Often tattooing is referred to as a pain substitution, much like when someone chooses to cut themselvesor cause themselves pain in order to find a sense of control or an emotional or mental stress relief.Tattooing can be like a release of these things for some people through the pain of the tattoo needle,therefore resulting in someone becoming addicted to that feeling of pain which would lead them toconstantly get more and more tattoos.Furthermore some people choose to have tattoos as a “cry for attention”. Tattoos can and are oftencompared with different types of creative expression such as; piercings or brightly coloured hair.However with tattoos being permanent they are often placed in a different category. A person that has avisible tattoo can often say that because of that tattoo someone has spoken to them or stared thereforegiving that person a feeling that they are the center of attention which some people often crave. Theneed for connection or even slight acknowledgement can create an addiction to tattoos for that person.
A massive factor relating to why people have tattoos and are addicted to them is because of self-expression. Similar to the reason why a person would dye their hair or get a certain piercing to expressthe person that they are. However tattooing is a more powerful and sometimes understandable way ofexpressing yourself. Having a tattoo that represents something or someone or has a specific meaningbehind it which is relevant to the person can be seen as a way of expressing themselves or helping themovercome an event in their life or a passing of a loved one through artwork. It is not uncommon forsomeone to has a tattoo that has a specific meaning behind it and is one of the major factors as to why itis an addiction.In addition, tattoos can just be a simple form of artwork. Someone could be highly interested in artworkand would want to create a piece of artwork on their body so that they can appreciate it for the rest oftheir lives. . If painters and sculptors can exhibit signs of addiction to their art, it stands to reason tattooartists, and tattoo aficionados could also feel a pull that resembles addiction when it comes to gettingtattoos.SocialIn a social sense tattoos are widely known for different aspect of someone’s social life. Such as;Organisational Obligations. A person may have a tattoo to represent a certain group/organization thatthey are a part of to show membership to that specific group. These Tattoos are normally related in ganggroups in prison or biker groups. Because of the situations these kinds of people are in, the want to be ina gang or be accepted is very high therefore causing an addiction to tattoos.While the tattooed have formed a sub-culture of their own, tattoos have been important parts of manycultures since ancient times. Many cultures practice the art of tattooing for both spiritual and ritualisticreasons. These kinds of tattoos can also be used to specify someone into a certain religious, political orsocial group. Even in western culture many individuals choose to get tattoos which identify their heritagewith flags, family crests or other iconic imagery. In UK culture often “Football thugs” as they are referredto by most people will get tattoos such as an England flag, to represent what football team they support.Also many “football thugs” will have a bull dog tattooed somewhere on their body. The bull dog is asymbol of pride for Britianpeople, it shows bravery and represents the hardships that British wentthrough during WW2. The flag of Scotland, called the Saltire, also known as Saint Andrew’s Cross, iscontinuously used as a tattoo by the Scotts.The Thistle is another popular Scottish tattoo often adopted
by many Scottish gold club maker. These both show a symbol of national pride and toughness. The thistleis also known to be many Scottish teams logo.This inclination to pay homage to one’s culturally history, heritage or ancestry could feed an alreadyaddictive inclination toward tattoos. The addiction to tattoos through heritage and culture is caused bythe pressure in needing to be accepted in their culture or to show many different forms of emotions toprove themselves to their culture of just represent their culture due to pride. - to understand the symbolic messages of gang culture body artTattoos are huge part of gang culture. There are many different tattoos that are well known thatrepresent certain events in a person in a gangs life. Tattoos in gang culture represent a commitment thatstays with the body even after life. Gang members are committed to the gang for life and shared tattoosare a way of unifying members of a gang.In many prisons around the world white inmates who are normally outnumbered and don’t tend to begang-organised in the prison population find it extremely important to show racial status to declare theirplace in the prison. White inmates will often have tattoos of swastikas or crosses signifying membershipto one of many white supremacist groups in the prison.An article by (Jean Casarez,2009) talks about a white inmate by the name of Joseph Bearden faced thedeath penalty for repeatedly stabbing a man in 2007. Bearden has two dagger tattoos above andunderneath his left eye, a small tear drop under his right eye and on his neck another tattoo that is acopra snake poised and ready to strike. Before entering prison Bearden did not have these tattoos,throughout his time in prison he was beaten so severely that he had to be admitted to hospital becauseof his injuries. Bearden later got the tattoos that he now has to help him survive jail life and to beaccepted. During jury selection for his trial, potential jurors were asked individually whether the tattoosthat Bearden had would influence their decision on his guilt.
Almost every single prison tattoos are done by artist convicts using homemade tattoos guns. Thesetattoos and done quickly and secretly to avoid the risk of being caught which would result in a ‘majorcase’. Prisoners can and may lose their privileges, be moved to a restricted wing or denied parole ifconvicted for this. In prison the handiwork of a tattoo artist is the most respected skill amongst inmates.Marks obtained in prison have significance on the streets amongst gangs. It is almost impossible to gointo a tattoo parlour without finding designs that emerged from the long, continuously evolving history ofthe Texas lock-up. Rasheed, a Muslim serving 20 years in Huntsville’s Wyn unit, was a 15-year-oldHouston Crip gang member when he killed two people in a drug deal. Now 21, he reads The Koran, praysfacing Mecca and fasts during the month of Ramadan. But still displayed prominently on his chest is thebarrel of a gun and the word “kill” tattooed directly above it.Convicts of all races seem to have teardrops tattooed directly below their eyes, giving people theimpression that they are permanently crying. This tattoo takes on different meaning depending on theplace and time when the tattoo was actually acquired. Originally each tear drop that a person had ontheir face would represent a murder committed. Throughout the years this has changed and now ateardrop can represent each of the family or gang members who died while that certain prisoner hasbeen locked up. Due to the location of the tattoo, it is a commitment showing how prison has almostliterally scarred the inmate. In a world where not caring about consequences is respected, tattoos declarethemselves fearless. For that reason inside the confines of the prison most hardened gang members,rather than hide their markings, display them fearlessly.These are two twins; Bless and Kojak. They are 43 years old and both have spent 19 years in prison forstabbing a man. Bless is a member of the 28s, also more tattooed than his brother. The spider web thatcan be seen on his neck symbolises how he will wait patiently for prey. The four stars on his shouldershow his high rank in the 28s. Both Bless and Kojak have fangs tattooed underneath their lips to show
that they will bite, also devil horns tattooed on their foreheadsThis well over 6ft tall man called Omar is covered in small tattoos. Jailed for 15 years because he stabbeda man who had smashed a rock over his head. He was referred to as ‘King’ in prison, and very high statusmember of the 28s gang. He has a tattoo of a hand on his neck which is the 28’s salute. Also a scorpion onhis arm shows his membership to the Cape Town Scorpions gang.Mexican Gang CultureMexican gangs are one of the large groups of gangs that have tattoos that are related to the certain gangthat a person may be involved in. Originally the Mexican mafia prison gang banned the practice ofreligion as a way to show membership to the group. Mexico is generally a country deeply fixated withcatholic tradition; this has made it impossible to undermine the influence of religion all together, evenwhen relating to violent criminal gang members. This is why Mexican gang members tend to be foundwith tattoos of hand clasped together in prayer, this tattoo generally represents a powerful image of aplea for forgiveness from God for the wrong the gang member has done.
Many Mexican gang tattoos often have significant phrases personal to that particular gang member.These include phrases like Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life” and PerdonameMi Madre (Forgive Me, Mother)which show how they are aware of their gangster life and how it is unacceptable to their family membersand loved ones. There words or phrases are usually tattooed in Old English style letters. Some Mexicangang members also tattoo the web of the hands with drawings relating to a special role within the gang.Sometimes these symbols are burned into the hand. Most Mexican gangs prefer the colours of theMexican flag as their gang’s colours. The colours of the Mexican flag are green, white and red. That is thereason why these colours predominate in the tattoos of Mexican gang members.Russian Gang CultureRussian gang members have tattoos for a much deeper reason than most. Russian mafia usually usestattoos as a way to display the truth to one another. By looking at a tattooed person in the Russian mafiapeople are able to pretentiously work out the details of that certain person’s criminal career such as; ifthey have lied, stolen, betrayed, been in prison or even murdered. Russian mafia tattoos represent whatrank or position they are in their gang and where their loyalties lay, sometimes even their sexualpreference. Since these tattoos represent the truth, if anyone is caught with fake tattoos or a tattoo that lies aboutwho they are, severe consequences may be put forward. If certain things are changed about a person inthe Russian mafia such as their loyalties then they are made to burn off their old tattoo and replace themwith new ones that represent their ‘new truths’.A tattoo of a rose on the chest is normally given to a new gang member to start of their career. Higherrank members of the gang always employ a tattoo artist for every tattoo that needs doing. Whereas inprisons the gang member will make their own inks and guns using material available to them, this meansthat their tattoos are usually one colour. However tattoos given to the Russian mafia are mostly situated
on the torso, therefore being covered by clothes.Symbolism and specific meaning of many of the tattoos in the Russian mafia are generally not clear foranyone outside the gang culture; however a few of them can be explained. A few that can be explainedare stars found of the chest; these signify a ‘career criminal’. Also a cathedral with five domes cansymbolize five years in imprisonment.Members of the gang that disrespect or go against the gang can and most likely will be forcibly tattooed.This mostly will occur in prison; these tattoos will often consist of derogatory words or indecent images.UK Gang Culture - to exam tribal body art in order to understand its relevance within the tribeTribal body art is highly popular and compulsory in many different types of tribes. Different pieces of body arthave different meanings, whether they be spiritual or status related. It can also be used to express beauty ofthe wearer.African body art is used to express an certain individual’s status amongst their tribe, spiritual beliefs or ethnicgroup. There are many different ways of creating body art such as; 1. Scarification 2. Body painting 3. Beadwork 4. Jewellery 5. MutilationEach of these methods of creating body art changes the wearer in an object that is shaped and created bycolour, textures, patterns and movement.
During dangerous times or events is a person’s life body art is used as a protective symbol to help them moveon to adulthood through childhood.Scarification is used to show something about the wearer. Scarification can be anything from cutting toburning and whipping, which for most people would be considered painful, but for the wearers of these theyare a way of showing a certain attribute they have or a stage in their life that they are progressing to. In theNigeian tribe, Ga’anda, pubescent girls are made to be scarred on their shoulders, backs and stomachs withdelicate and individual designs to show the transition into womanhood. For the Sudanese tribe of Shilluk, theyuse scarred dots usually across the forehead to give and display details about that certain person’s heritage.Body painting is probably one of the most common methods used to create body art, also one of the leastpainful methods. Body painting s most formally used to represent sexual maturity. The colours of the tribe arefrequently used in body painting to represent it, however can be also used to give a specific message about thewearer. The Nuba males in Sudan, unlike other tribes who usually only use body painting in times of worshipor mourning, paint and decorate almost their entire body to indicate their stage in life.Beadwork is a highly popular form of body art that Africans are more or less famous for. The uses of colourfulbeads are used in many different ways by Africans such as; on their body and in their hair, also these beads areused on clothing. There are a number of reasons why colourful beads are used and what they represent.Beadwork will mainly represent certain aspects of the wearer such as; gender, power within the tribe, howmany children the wearer has and more.Jewellery is used as a way to create beauty. Mainly tribe jewellery is made from leather, hair, grasses, beads,bones, shells and seeds. When jewellery was made from a more valuable material such as coral the wearerwould see it as more valuable.Mutilation is the most creative way that tribes people use to express themselves are certain things in theirlives. Mutilation can include earlobe and lip plugs, neck rings. Any other similar method of changing the body’sappearance by stretching is considered Mutilation. By doing these types of things tribes people are able tohave the result of having a strange physical feature that more than likely becomes a part of them are they maynot be able to change the effects of Mutilation.