Genuine traditional tattooing technique known as ‘Hand tapping’ is known internationally and founded throughout the Indonesian archipelago, such as in various Dayak Borneo Kalimantan tribes and Mentawai tribe; as well as in other parts of Indonesia which already vanished, such as in Lesser Sunda Islands (known as Nusa Tenggara: Sumba, Rote Island, Flores and surroundings), Sulawesi, Nias island, some part of Papua and Batak tribe in Sumatra island.
Hand tapping tattoo has a distinct differentiation with those made with modern technique by either coil or rotary tattoo machine.
The pain caused by hand tapping tattooing also different. You would understand the difference once you have experienced tattooed by machine.
The attraction and interest of traditional tattoo philosophy, its tradition and culture, as well as a distinct interest in adventure would determine whether a person would be interested to have hand-tapping tattoo.
Hand tapping tattoo process is very time consuming and requires a lot of patience.It also requires an intense and in-depth dialogue between the tattoo artist and the client compared to making modern tattoo with machine.During the making of hand tapping, you will going through a special journey back in time when hand-tapping tattoo still existed.The rhythm of the two pieces of wood for hours could be meditative, although you have to bear the pain during the process, but it would be an esthetic and spiritual experience in your life.
Hand tapping Tattoo: how it works
It requires a solid teamwork during the making of hand tapping tattoo.The tattooist or tattoo artist would control a shorter organic material stick that has a sterile need at the end in order to penetrate the ink into the dermis, which is the second layer of skin under the epidermis.The second stick will then be tapped manually, together with an assistant, called ‘skin stretcher’ who is responsible to stretch the client’s skin so it is solidly spread.
The process is very time consuming and demands a high level of patience, concentration and accuracy from both the tattooist and skin stretcher.The high adrenaline level exerted during this process, caused exhaustion the tattooist and skin stretcher that can last for 2 days afterwards.
What is "Titi" ?
Titi: is Tattoo in Mentawai language.
Mentawai tattoo designs were not created to be put on the body as single or stand-alone motive, but contextually designed for the overall body from face, neck, breast, back, ribs, stomach, limbs, hands, fingers, hip, buttock, thigh, and shin.
The overall motive and design are made of lines, dots, crosses and other geometrical, as well as simple symmetrical forms, but they form strong lines across the body and very much responding to each part of human body and its anatomy.
Each motive and element of Mentawai tattoo has a strong correlation with the way of living of the Mentawaian, its nature and animism religion, which is called Arat Sabulungan.
Arat:custom; Sabulungan: the spirits that inhabit foliage; Bulu:leaf (symbol of nature).
Titi is an identity or recognition for each person or each tribe in Mentawai and is an eternal outfit.Titi is a stage towards perfecting body and soul in order to achieve eternal harmony together with ruler of nature and ancestral spirits.In the religious concept of Arat Sabulungan, the three main rulers of the nature, namely: Taikamua (ruler spirit of the sky), Taikaleleu (ruler spirit of the forest, land, mountain), Taikokoat (ruler spirit of the sea, river or water).
Sago is the main staple of food and the source main necessities in life in Mentawai.Based on this, some of the Mentawai tattoos were made of the sago tree concept.Likewise is the visual element that represented vegetation and animals are being adapted as Titi.
Titi motives for men and women are generally different, however there are some similarities.The difference is on the motive and form from several areas in Mentawai.
Only in Siberut island among the Mentawai archipelago, which has the evidence of tattoo tradition.In main island of Sipora, North Pagai and South Pagai, as well in smaller islands, the tattoos are all vanished.
The terms of tattoo in different tribes in Borneo
Some tribes in Borneo call tattoo as “Pantang”, “Tutang”, “Tedak”, “Betik”, “Purung” and “Tatu”.
It is very hard to collect these difference terms of tattoo since there are about 147 or more tribes and sub-tribes in whole island of Borneo.
It is also extremely difficult to collect and do some research about different kind of tattoo motives from different tribes since the tattoo tradition is collapsed and nearly vanished without trace.
The lack of old documentations is also a serious reason we face regarding to track the tattoo motives in Mentawai is also experienced when we try to learn and do some research about
tattooing and the original motives in Borneo.