Decades ago, tattooing was a marginal thing — the scum of society. Thieves, murderers, prostitutes, addicts, sailors and menial workers of dubious character … Rudimentary scribbles, rough designs and crooked letters were eternalized in the skins, most often without the slightest hygiene condition.
The scene began to change in 1959, when Dane Knud Harald Lykke Gregersen set up a professional studio on the shores of Santos, where he used a previously unpublished tattoo machine.
The beauty and personality of foreign images, the Lucky Tatoo, has gained more and more fans, and art on the skin has broken the boundaries of marginality. Today, it has become commonplace that not having a tattoo is the exception. But why do people get tattooed?
Beauty, recognition, overcoming
PhD in Psychobiology, Professor Marcello Arias Danucalov explains that there are a number of factors that lead a person to tattoo, related to how the individual perceives himself in his personal group and also to personal values. Danucalov, who specializes in Human Behavioral Neurobiology and has huge tattoos, suggests some answers as to why people eternalize features and figures in their own skin.
Do people get tattooed to look better?
Probably yes. If one cares to be the center of the universe, to be seen, to have pleasure, to obtain happiness, he believes that all his desires must be fulfilled. You blame others all the time, whether you draw attention to yourself or want others to notice you. Many young people can get tattooed for just that. “Realize me, I’m handsome, I’m worth looking at.” At this time, people tattoo themselves with symbols that don’t have much to do with them, which probably up front they might regret, because it was a purely aesthetic motif, an adornment. Sometimes when you are little you have a room that pleases you aesthetically, but when you grow up you say, “damn, I’m going to throw this picture away, it doesn’t represent me anymore.” So yes, some people get tattooed to look better.
Do people get tattooed to mark personal values?
Yes. One sees oneself as a member of a social field, which has people playing the same game, obeying the same legal and tacit rules that make that game happen. Respect for these norms and values is understood and taken into consideration by those people who already see themselves as social agents. In this sense, tattooing can represent these solid values as guiding principles of conduct. One looks at one’s tattoo and thinks, “This represents me, it is important to me.” The person seeks to place symbols that represent the decision-making criteria that he or she takes into consideration when subjected to pressure.
Do people get tattooed to delimit belonging to a group?
For sure. In Japan, for example, the Yakuzas have wonderful tattoos that are done as a rite of passage for the organization. In Brazil, the tattoo came with the chain tattoo stigma, in which prisoners tattooed to identify which faction they belonged to. We may also think that a teenager who wants to be perceived may abdicate his own individuality to be accepted by a group. For example, if he wants to be accepted by the long-haired, black-haired, heavy-metal group, he can tattoo the AC DC or Black Sabbath symbol on his arm so that he can be accepted into that community. It’s not just teenagers seeking acceptance, but adults as well.
Why do they say tattooing is “addictive”?
Because we are all potentially addicts, we can develop habits. There are virtuous and other habits that are vicious. If you were born with a genetic tendency to develop a certain behavior, you may get used to tattooing yourself.
Some people report taking pleasure in the pain of tattooing. Why?
It is an extremely philosophical question. Things that are painful tend to be more pleasurable. When you have a certain level of challenge, which is intense enough that you can get through it and not light enough to demotivate it, the pleasure can be greater. The pleasure of doing a very well done course, studying and speaking “I got it, I tried it”. The pleasure of training, being able to overcome a personal mark and remember the pain, the effort. Pleasure is tied to some kind of pain as well. “I paid a price to get this artwork, only I know.” I think most people wouldn’t feel very well if they just woke up with a tattoo: “Wow! What is this here? Wow, a tattoo! ”. Tattooing is a rite, a very important moment for many people, and this pain is a symbol of the price a person has paid to have something cool and will carry for the rest of his life. It is a completely tolerable pain, which is on the threshold of bearable, but after it ends causes a great welfare: “I managed to win it, this tattoo belongs to me, because I paid a nice price.” It is a rewarding sacrifice. The pain has to do with this pleasure, a pride of having gone through a ritual, which finally presented him with an achievement.
As old as humanity
The practice of tattooing is as old as walking forward. The first known tattoo was that of a man whose body was found fossilized in 1991 in the Alps. Ötzi Man is estimated to have lived 3,300 years before Christ. More than 50 tattoos were found on his body: on his back, ankles, wrists, knees and feet. The designs are supposed to have been made from the rubbing of charcoal in vertical cuts on the skin.
Although populations have no direct contact, tattooing has been found across continents for centuries for different purposes: religious rituals, identification of social groups, marking prisoners and slaves, ornamentation, and even camouflage. Aboriginals, Eskimos, Africans, Indians, Amazonian Indians … each people with their particularity, cultivated the habit of eternalizing marks and signs throughout the body.
The word tattoo is a derivation of “tatau”, which was what Tahiti natives called the practice of painting the skin by introducing ink using wooden sticks. The first Westerner to describe the word and procedure was Captain James Cook in 1769. English sailors liked and took the Polynesian habit to other parts of the world. Tattooing spread further from 1891, when the electric machine was invented.
Lucky Tattoo, the pioneer of tattooing in Brazil
Dinosaurian Knud Harald Lykke Gregersen, the Lucky Tattoo, introduced Brazil’s professional tattoo in 1959 when he opened a studio in the Santos port area. In addition to harbor workers and surfers, Lucky tattooed a dragon on the arm of surfer Jose Arthur Machado, Petit, who was immortalized in Baby do Brasil’s song “Menino do Rio”.
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