A 105-Year-Old Tattoo Artist Is Teaching Girls to Ink for Independence

Tattoos have a long tradition in tribal cultures, and they are a symbol of belonging and social statement. In Buscalan village, Kalinga, the Philippines a 105-year-old tattoo artist is empowering young girls from the community to follow this ancient tradition.
Buscalan is located on top of the mountain and can be reached through a jungle, and the isolated village’s access to electricity and modern technology is limited.
Fang-od Oggay is a local hero and has received increasing media attention recently, as she is the oldest tribal tattoo artist alive and holds the title of Mambabatok.

Oggay treasures all of her tattoos and considers them a legacy to be left after you die, and for the past nine years is the only remaining tattooist in the area using the hand-poke technique. She uses citrus horns which are then threaded into a bamboo reed and uses a mixture of charcoal and water as ink.
The tattoo is then marked into the skin with the use of a 12-inch bamboo hammer. Although it sounds painful at a first glance, many swear that this ancient method hurts less than modern tattoo machines.

The Kalinga tattoo symbolizes strength and power in the community, but they also embody the concept of beauty for the Kalinga people.
Young girls are tattooed starting at the age of 12-13 years to look more attractive and find a partner, but now Oggay is looking to change this perspective.
She started training the young girls from the village and passing on the hand-poke technique so they will be able to support themselves on their own.
This is a great example of how tribal communities are evolving and embracing gender equality, being also supported by the elderly members of the community.


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