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Paint the Body Beautiful

Face Tattoos a Grandmother Could Love

Woman with facial tattoo, photo by Yumna Al-Arashi

Photo by Yumna Al-Arashi, as published in Huffington Post.


Last week’s Huffpost Culture featured a wonderful article about photographer Yumna Al-Arashi’s quest to document the origins of her grandmother’s time-honored tradition of facial tattoos. It turns out there are several motives behind the lines, dots, and symbols that adorn the faces of the women whose stories were in danger of disappearing, along with the women themselves—the women she interviewed are aged between their late 70s and 109!

One of the women Al-Arashi spoke to told her, “I wanted them to show my beauty, to highlight it. Every beautiful woman had tattoos. They symbolize my power, my beauty, and my ability to connect to the Earth. It’s something I’m so proud of.”

It turns out that the tattoos are “a symbol of matriarchal power”; and are also believed to protect from evil spirits, just like henna and jagua. Love it! If you’re interested, you can read all about the magical beliefs and traditions surrounding henna and jagua in my books, respectively, Mehndi: The Art of Henna Body Painting and Jagua, A Journey into Body Art from the Amazon.

I have to admit that when I see people walking around urban areas with facial tattoos, I usually think: bad idea. But looking at the photos of these graceful women and their facial tattoos, my first thought was: gorgeous.

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