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The Art of Tattoo

Tattoo is a way of expressing your feelings through your skin- Mo Naga

Photo by Mr. Tarun Gargh

Mo Naga, an alumnus of NIFT-Hyderabad is a self-taught tattoo artist. He is reviving traditional tattoos of the tribal people of North-East, creating neo-tribal designs. His designs are exposing to the world the lost tattoos of Northeastern tribes. Recently Mo Naga was present here at an exhibition at the Indian Museum aimed at documenting the traditions of past generations of Konyaks an initiative by Phejin Konyak, a descendant of the tattooed headhunters of the Konyak tribe. She has worked relentlessly for conserving the vanishing art.Renowned Dutch photographer Peter Bos, a collaborator in the research of Phejin Konyak..Abhijit Ganguly spoke to Mo Naga.

You are a qualified Fashion Designer from National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) - Hyderabad. What prompted you to embark on a journey to protect, revive and promote tribal tattoos?

India has a diversified culture of tattoos from Kerala to Himachal Pradesh and from Gujarat to Nagaland, India has existing tattoo traditions. There are many tribes of the Naga community with rich tattoo traditions. I was overwhelmed by the opportunities that lay in front of me. It was the right time for me to shift from textile designing. Tattoos would reconnect me to my roots and give me an opportunity to showcase my work. I wanted to promote indigenous tattoo culture, prevalent among various tribes of the North-East. I am overwhelmed by the response and support that I have received. There is a need for urgency in everyone including the government bodies and the artists to revive the forgotten art of the Nagas which is slowly fading away.

What is the present scenario of tattoo making?

The tattoo industry is booming in India. Tattoo is a way of expressing your feelings through your skin. For most people a tattoo signifies something deeper, much more personal and meaningful unlike the clothes or the makeup. Five -six years ago, people were fascinated by the bio-mechanical tattoo like, and then came realistic portraits and now people want to get Naga tribal style tattoos. The biggest misconception of tattoo is regarding health. There has to be more awareness about safe, hygienic and international standard tattooing.

What do you think is important for a tattoo artist while making a tattoo?

A tattoo artist must understand design concepts, body aesthetic, must have knowledge of art, and must be able to appreciate different art forms.

Words of advice for aspiring tattoo artists?

To become a tattoo artist entails a long journey, lot of study, hard work and sincerity. It’s a profession that pays handsomely but is underestimated in society.

How was your experience getting involved with Phejin and Peter?

It was a great learning experience for me personally. I am grateful to Phejin and Sayan Bhattarcharya for arranging the workshop at the Indian Museum. Peter is a great photographer. I had great fun exchanging thoughts with both Peter and Phejin.

Contributing Writer, Abhijit Ganguly, is an extensively published journalist based in Kolkata, India. His stories cover the global arts scene and the fusion arts movement with the culture and art of India. Ganguly’s work includes personal interviews with world renowned dance troupes, film directors, fine artists, sculptors, as well as jazz, hip hop and classical musicians. He is known for presenting an inside view of the artist's craft and what motivates their creativity. Ganguly also delves into the artist's take on what a young person in Kolkata can learn from each artist, so that the youth of the city can learn to master these skills.

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