Saturday, February 14, 2009

Indonesian Tattoos and Body Art

Indonesians, Javanese in particular, used to take tattoos as synonymous with incurable criminal tendencies. In 1980's, there was a controversial police biz all around Java -- it wasn't really recognized as such, as a matter of course, by the regime in power at the time -- that involved rounding up nearly everybody with a tattoo on his body, and shooting them on the spot. This was supposed to prevent crimes before any was committed. No kidding.

Because not a single tentacle of 'the Authorities' acknowledged the 'signature' on this spree as theirs, the thing stays in the Indonesian history as the times of 'Petrus' -- that's the Indonesian and Javanese version of 'Peter' (by the way, click here for Indonesian names), but in this case it was an abbreviation of the term 'penembak misterius', i.e. 'mystery shooters'.

Ten years after those scary days, in the end of 1990's, tattoo parlors owned, managed and operated by twentysomethings became familiar sights in Java -- especially in Bandung (West Java), Jakarta (capital city of this Republic), Yogya, and Surabaya (East Java)

Those come in a variety of everything.

I mean, the tattoo artists of some joints are really great and do their jobs professionally, some others are freelancers obeying whims, or even overzealous yet underachieving amateurs.

The joints themselves range from some air-conditioned hygienic rooms with some music (like Hitam in Yogya), to a simple one-room place not dissimilar with the characteristic Indonesian cigarette vending carts, down to just any spot on earth that happens to be where the artist and the client meets.

Anyway, these joints, even if some are nothing like biz and closer to 'communities', have been helping to elevate the status of tattoo in this country. Of course Hollywood plays some significant parts, too, in changing the average Indonesian minds about the dignity of such permanent (or, after 2000, also temporary) body-painting.

As in any pioneering and edge-cutting enterprise, certain individuals can get nailed down as the ones who have been doing much to attain today's lively tattoo-related scene accessible to all.

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