History of Tattoo in Bali

Tattoo History in Bali

In the Balinese language, the traditional tattoo art is known as “mencocoh”, according to the way the tattoo is carried out, the skin of the body is tattooed using black ink needles. At first the development of tattoos was only practiced by the elite of shamans, rulers and clergy. This is because the Balinese tattoo designs contain magical values, such as some Balinese ornaments, puppet characters and “rerajahan” (images that contain magical values). The use of these tattoos is considered only appropriate for those who are in high position status in the society and are considered closer to the Gods.

In religious functions, Bali tattoo is closely related to religion. Religious patterned tattoos are believed to give meaning to the wearer and to avoid all dangers from evil spirits. Balinese traditional tattoo motifs can be divided into four types, including:

  1. Kala (evil figures), include the pictures of a bald giant, Rangda, Kala, Raja Banaspati, Kala Raksa, Buta Siu, the Jogor Manik, etc.
  2. Symbolic, include various Balinese sacred scripts such as Ang, Ung, Mang and Ongkara.
  3. Weapons, include the chains, daggers, axes and maces.
  4. Gods, include the Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati.

Natural Materials for Bali Traditional Tattoo

Technically, the traditional Balinese tattoos use natural materials that are available and ready in the nature. For coloring, the Balinese tattoo artists use banana sap mixed with jelaga (soot) and coconut oil. The three basic ingredients are mixed and applied to the skin and ready to be tattooed.

Development of Tattoo in Bali

When the Japanese military invaded Bali, tattoos underwent changes due to various crimes. In the 1970s, to show identity and solidarity, young people began to make tattoos. This tattoo is believed to be able to strengthen the feeling of belonging between fellow citizens in facing everything that is dangerous that comes from outside. At this stage the tattoo develops into a masculine status among the youth and all threats that come from the outside can certainly be overcome by them, although in the end it leads to violence.

Bali is now hit by secular tattoos. Tattoos, which were originally a medium of connection with something transcendent, are now more directed to horizontal relationships. The tendency of Balinese people to abandon local designs because of the fear of taking the risk if local sacred images are not properly depicted on the body and its transcendental value. This once happened when a Dutch tourist tattooed holy script on his ass which trigger strong reaction from Balinese Hindus.