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Tattoo in Bali – History – Tradition – Types

by Lela Tresna

Tattoo or rajah is a sign, symbol, letters, or picture made by inserting pigment into the human’s skin. In Indonesia itself, tattoo was originally a culture from Mentawai West Sumatera. Mentawai itself is nominated as one of Most Famous Tribes in Indonesia. Other than Mentawai, several tribes that knew tattoo application since long time ago is  Dayak Iban culture, Dayak Kayan and Bali tribe. Nowadays people wear tattoo to fulfill hobby or following the trend meanwhile the traditional people, tattoo  contains many values and meanings.

The Tradition of Tattoo in Bali

Balinese people considering tattoo as an art that is poured over the skin permanently. Besides an art expression, tattoo is also a symbol of many; masculinity, religious expression, interest, etc. The development of tattoo in Bali is moving rapidly in terms of design or color.  The traditional society in Bali make tattoo with natural ingredients available in the nature. For coloring purposes, people use banana sap mixed with soot and coconut oil. The three basic ingredients are mixed and applied to the skin.

The Balinese Hindu knows a culture called rajah or rerajahan. Rerajahan itself is about marking the body with letters, mantra or the existence of Magical mythology element contained in literature which is believed to have  magical powers. The history of rajah in Bali was begun in the kingdom era or the time when knowledge and trade entered Bali at that time.

Tattoo was utilized as a personal mean to mark the people social status and a part of harmonious society in the past. According to the process in making tattoo, tattooing is called as mencocoh in Balinese language because the human skin is dicocoh or stabbed  using a black-inked needle.

In the early development era, tattoos in Bali only favored by the elite (shamans, rulers and clerics). This is because in Bali tattoo designs contain magical values, such as Balinese ornaments, candidates of leaders, puppet figures, pictures of rerejahan, and sacred scripts (Acintya, Tri-sula, Cakra). The usage of tattoo are only belong to those who have high position, especially those who are considered as people that close to God. The traditional Balinese tattoo types or motives divided into  four kinds, namely kala, symbolic, weapons and Gods.

The Types of Tattoo in Bali

The most popular motive for tattoo in Bali is Barong. Barong itself is the name of a typical Balinese dance depicting a Barong-shaped spirit that guards the Balinese people.

Barong is quite famous in Bali and it becomes the icon of Bali. Due to its uniqueness, many tourists are coming to Bali to get barong picture tattooed on their bodies. Tattoo lovers around the world who come to Bali usually make tattoo barong on their bodies.

The tattoo itself can be adjusted either temporary or permanent because the price is affordable. The artistic art drawings, the complexity of the making process, and its affordable price make this barong tattoo gain international recognition quickly. Tattoo barong can be made on your back, chest, arms, and legs according to your preference.  You can make it colorful or black and white, and the size of this tattoo can be customized as well.

Besides barong type, there are also some tattoo types that are popular in Bali. Kala type usually consists of bald-headed giant, Rangda, Kala, Kala Rau Makan Bulan, Raja Banaspati, Sang Kala Raksa, Buta Siu, Sang Jogor Manik. Symbolic type consists of the picture of Ongkara, Acintya, as well as various sacred characters such as Ang, Ung, Mang. Weapon type shows chain drawings, keris, ax and mace. Last but not least, Gods type usually use the images of famous gods in Hinduism, such as Vishnu god, Brahma god, goddess Durga, goddess Lakshmi, goddess Saraswati.

To know more about Balinese tradition, read Cultural Norms in Bali.

As the time goes by the type of tattoo in Bali are developing. This is due to the fact that Bali is a popular tourist destination in Indonesia so the tattoo sketch or type is influenced by the foreign culture as well. Nowadays, tattoo in Bali is not only used by the favorable people, the local people and the foreigners can make tattoo too. Making a tattoo in Bali becomes a popular Fun Activities to do in Bali, the people especially foreigners make a distinctive tattoo in Bali as a sign that they have visited Bali.

Best Tattoo Studios in Bali

Tattooing activity is very common is Bali, even the local people use their skill in tattooing to get some cash. Tattoo studios in Bali aren’t hard to find, especially throughout the island’s main southern beach resort areas of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. However, choosing the best out of the many is rather more difficult since you do not want to regret it for the rest of your life, right? The professionalism, skill and experience of the tattoo artists is one thing; but quality and hygiene are equally important.

Moreover I believe that you want to undergo your inking sessions in the most comfortable of setups and settings as possible. Most of the tattoo studios in Bali are managed by the local artists who are as amazing as their pens and sketches as they are with their tattoo guns. Every studio in Bali offers an original portfolio so you can choose from a cool array of artwork, from tribal motifs and ethnic styles, to calligraphy and portraits, besides consulting them with your ideas and concepts before getting prepped. Therefore here are some recommendations to help you decide on where to get your body tattooed perfectly in Bali.

a. Artful Ink Tattoo Studio

The first one is Artful Ink Tattoo Studio This studio is an international tattoo network in Bali and it provides a good art and good energy. The Seminyak shop is located in the Petitenget route, Bali, so you can find this studio easily.

This studio maintains to give the customers a high standard in design, use of genuine Italian and Californian inks, sterile and single-use equipment, and overall hygiene. This tattoo studio offers interesting design such as script translations of Sanksrit from English.

b. Mason’s Ink Studio

Mason’s Ink is another popular studio in Bali which established based on simple idea. This studio has many talented tattoo artists mastering in each type of tattoo, there are many preferences available here.

This studio is spotless with hospital grade equipment and setup, it adheres to the Australian hygiene standard made this studio as the Bali’s cleanest tattoo studio.

The design offered in this studio such as  colorful ink works,  which go very well into graded watercolour-style floral and feather patterns. This studio is located in Kuta and Seminyak, Bali.

c. Two Guns Tattoo Studio

Two Guns Tattoo studio is located in Legian, Kuta, Bali. This studio use imported American inks and guns in their freehand work.

They’re happy to apply any style that you can think of, and accept cover ups or fixing bad tattoos, as well as restorations of old and faded tattoos. The payment for tattoo is according to the hour, the customer is charge per hour.

Two Guns is recognized by the Professional Tattoo Association of Australia and have advanced medical sterilizing equipment in house.

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