|1) Dayak, ca. 1927. Credit: H.F.
Tillema. Dayak woman's hand tattoos. The black spikes that run from the knuckles to the mid-digits are called
song irang (shoots of bamboo), the lines that run horizontally behind the knuckles are called ikor (lines), and the design on the wrists is ?
It is possible that this is an anthropomorph of some kind and may represent silong lejau (tiger's faces).
2) Dayak, ca. 1927. Credit: H.F. Tillema. Dayak woman's thigh tattoo. This woman was of high rank as evidenced by the number of rings around the calves. The motif running up the thighs is called silong lejau (tiger's faces). At the terminus of these bands you can barely make out a different pattern just above the horizontal lines on the calf. This is called nang klinge (important design) and is a degraded anthropomorph. What is unusual is that this design is usually found on the kneecaps of both men and women and this tattoo was the one reserved for the last portion of the body tattoo. The curlicues below the horizontal ikor around the calves are called tushun tuva (the tuba root motif). What is great about this photo is that the unmarked portions of her thigh are visible. These were important because if a woman decorated these areas (known as tedak danau - lake tattoo), her legs would become mortified.
Dayak, ca. 1927,
Dayak, ca. 1927. Credit: H.F. Tillema. Thigh and calf tattoos of a Dayak woman. The ikor
(lines) that run below the knee and calf show high status. The snake-like motif is actually a dog derivative called tuang buvong asu (dog without tail). This design is also engraved on Dayak sword
blades. The motif at the bottom of these verticle bands, the coil that looks like an abstract letter A, is a tuba root
(tushun tuva) pattern representing an anthropomorph/spirit of some kind. Sometimes
the dog motif is replaced with a similar design element that represents the hornbill, a bird sacred to most peoples of Borneo - strong sexual symbolism here. (NOTE: Oftentimes, women became ill as a result of being tattooed with infected needles. Many subsequently died.) Tattooing on the back of the thighs usually took the better portion of several weeks.
Dayak, ca. 1896. Credit: Dr. A.W. Nieuwenhuis.
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Tattoo images through history