Skin Deep: a history of tattooing
- By: Kay Seong Ngoo
Tattoos—indelible marks on the human body—are increasingly popular. Not long ago, these images were liberally adopted by sailors and war veterans as expressions of solidarity, patriotism, and romance. Now, they are a statement of fashion and identity throughout our society. Unregulated, this form of body art is hazardous, particularly in terms of skin and blood borne infectious diseases.
Skin Deep is not an exhibition about health promotion and the danger of tattoos. Instead, it considers the human cost and underlying impact on humanity, through the historical portrayal of this unique art. The exhibition is divided into three eras.
The first era focuses on early European encounters with tattooing in the Pacific. Captain James Cook was among the legendary 18th century voyagers to the South Pacific who introduced tattoos to Western civilisation. He was attracted to the customs of the Polynesian islanders, and, subsequently, his sailors began adopting the tattoos. Originally,