In the twentieth century, the Maori of New Zealand all but lost their tattooing tradition. Only the women who continued to sport the traditional chin design ensured that the art did not disappear completely. Today, a tattoo renaissance is underway, and artist Gordon Toi plays a key role in the process.
Western Samoa is one of the few places on the planet where traditional tattooing continued unimpeded through the colonial era. Sua Peter Suluaʻpe is a contemporary master of the craft. With his father and brothers, he works out of a cultural village in the heart of Apia, the Samoan capital.
Jay Soule is a multidisciplinary artist known as “Chippewar” in the Indigenous community. His internationally-recognized work expresses much of the angst of today’s Indigenous population in Canada. Adopted at five years of age, Jay was taken from his birth mother and grew up outside his home community.
The ancient city of Palenque was once a hub of Mayan civilization. For centuries after its decline, it lay hidden under layers of tropical vegetation, until modern archaeologists peeled back the jungle to reveal it to the world in the last century. Today, Palenque is both an cultural centre and a sacred site.
Nakkita Trimble is the only tattoo artist from the Nisga’a Nation. Along with elders from her community, she hopes to revive the traditional process of tattooing known as gihlee’e. Ts’iksna’aḵs—the tattoos—were usually composed of crests, known as ayukws, and of adaawaḵs, which are stories, legends and history.
Marjorie Tahbone, an Alaskan artist of Inupiaq heritage, was first among the living women of her family to get her traditional chin tattoo. Because no one was practicing the tattooing art at the time, she had to get her markings from a non-Indigenous artist in Fairbanks.
Seattle-born artist Nahaan sees tattoo, like many other forms of artistic expression, as a political act and a form of resistance. This artist of mixed First Nations heritage draws on traditional teachings to create new work using modern and traditional methods alike.
Jordan Bennett is an artist of Mi’kmaq descent whose work blends pop culture and traditional teachings into work that connects the past, the present and the future.