Top left an Iranian lady with tattooed face, middle,modern flower tattoo and the eagle like drawing is one typical of Dayak’s of Borneo. In the middle an arabic tattoo writing and bottom an Arab girl tattooed body for private eyes only.
Tattoos the culture
|Nothing wrong with ‘tattoo’ soldiers|
|The Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) has called on the Malaysian Armed Forces not to discriminate against Iban youths when they apply to join the service because of their body tattoos|
A recent newspaper report quoted an Army General in Kuching as saying young people with tattoos in Sabah and Sarawak are allowed to join the army. However, tattooed Muslims are not welcomed.
Tattoos are in fashion these days, especially among the young. Some people prefer to call them body art.
In Borneo, the Dayaks are renown for their tattoos. You are not one, unless you are heavily tattooed. Simply put, it’s part of their cultural heritage.
As a family, my wife, my son and I love tattoos. We even have small ones done on ourselves. It’s part of our Borneo DNA, which we take quite seriously.
Traditional Borneo tattoos for men are usually associated with headhunting or war expeditions, and for women they are considered as elements of beauty.
Tattoos are simply part of the ‘rites of passage” for them.
With the introduction of the Middle Eastern religions to our world, this traditional practice has somewhat declined especially with the young until now. There is some kind of revival; it is like the young people have suddenly rediscovered their heritage all over again, although the designs are more commercial than traditional. The practice is more widespread than a few years ago.
Traditional tattoos in Borneo are also generally associated with myths and legends.
A Murut legend has it that a young woman from their tribe a long time ago advised a crocodile family how to produce eggs to start their family when they ran into difficulties in doing so.
For her help, all Murut must tattoo an image of crocodile on each shoulder or two tattoos on their legs so that all crocodiles recognise them as friends and would never harm them.
The Dayaks of southern and western Borneo see a direct connection between tattoos and death.
They believe when the soul leaves the body and goes in search of heaven, only tattooed women who provided well for their families and headhunters/warriors with hand tattoos as token of their success will be guided to the right place as the tattoos burn brightly in the darkness.
While the Middle Eastern religions are said not to encourage tattooing, a visit to the holy city of Mecca will reveal that many older Muslim Arab women have tattoos on their hands and faces.
Many younger Banjar people in Sabah who are devout Muslims take pride in their tattoos.
When asked, their reply is,” we are Islamised Dayaks, and we are proud of our heritage, is there anything wrong with that?”
If they are citizens of the country and wish to join the army, must they be discriminated against for displaying their cultural heritage?