Home Social 105-Year-Old Tattoo Artist Teaches Girls to Ink for Independence

105-Year-Old Tattoo Artist Teaches Girls to Ink for Independence

People all throughout the globe consider tattooing to be an art form in itself. Tattooing dates back to the Neolithic era, according to historical records. As the art of tattooing progressed, people all around the globe created their own traditional tattoo styles. The Batek style from the Philippines, Sak Yant from Thailand, Irezumin from Japan, Tatau from Samoa, Ta Moko from New Zealand, Ptasan from Taiwan, and Mehndi from India are a few examples of these tattoo styles.

Some of these traditional tattoo styles are at risk of becoming extinct at the present time. However, a 105-year-old tattoo artist in the Philippines has continued to carry on the tradition of tattooing in the region of Kalinga.

Whang-Od Oggay is the oldest mambabatok in the Philippines at 105 years old.

Whang-Od Oggay is the oldest mambabatok in the Philippines at 105 years old.
Image credits : lablouseroumaine/Instagram

This incredible tattoo artist’s name is Whang-Od Oggay (also popular as Whang-od or Maria Oggay). Traditional Kalinga tattoo artists are known as Mambabatoks. In the Philippines, she is the country’s oldest mambabatok.

This tattoo artist is highly recognized not only by those who live in the region but also by tourists who come to visit. They go a long distance out of their way only to see her. Visitors travel 15 hours north of Manila to the mountain community of Buscalan. One must hike for a mile through forest and terraced rice fields to get there from the nearest dirt road.

As a tattoo artist, Whang-Od makes several tattoos every day with the use of a pomelo tree thorn and bamboo sticks as well as water and charcoal. The hand-made ink is pushed deeply into the skin using the thorn and bamboo.

According to Oggy, it takes years to master the art of Kalinga tattooing.

According to Oggy, it takes years to master the art of Kalinga tattooing.

Lines Lines, basic shapes, tribal patterns as well as animals are some of the permanent designs. Every one of them conveys a distinct meaning, such as strength, beauty, and fertility.

Tattoos in the Philippines represent a sense of community and belonging. In contrast, western cultures often use tattoos as a form of self-expression through the usage of various designs.

The first people to use hand-tapped body art were Butbut warriors. To these people, a tattoo represented something quite unique. The only people who were permitted to receive tattoos were those who had committed a murder. Body art, on the other hand, was seen as meeting the standards of beauty when it was shown on females.

Here are some of Whang-Od Oggay’s tattoos.

Here are some of Whang-Od Oggay's tattoos.

Oggay claims that they acquired tattoos in order to enhance their sexual allure and to make themselves more desirable to guys.

The wives of several of the senior men are said to have identical tattoos to their husbands.  According to Oggay, it is a Kalinga practice for the women of warriors to get tattoos that match those of their husbands.

As Whang-Od got older, her friends tattooed her arms and legs. She then began implementing them with other people. She began her apprenticeship as a tattoo artist when she was only 15 years old. In addition, her father was there to support her at every turn.

People from all over the world come to her to get a tattoo.

But for a very long time, only males were permitted to pursue tattooing as a career. So, Whang-Od marked a change in the tradition.

It is not easy to preserve the tradition of mambabatok. People in this culture believe that the only way to pass along this skill is via blood relatives. Tattoos may get infected if you don’t.

When it comes to children, Whang-Od does not have any. But she isn’t worried about the art fading away. She has taught her grandnieces the technique of tattooing so that they might follow in her footsteps and become tattoo artists in their own way.

It had been one year since Isa had started tattooing at the age of 18.

It had been one year since Isa had started tattooing at the age of 18.

In 2018, the village of Buscalan has 20 female seniors who were fully tattooed over their bodies. Many of them had gotten their first tattoos when they were only 13 years old. In addition, these ladies, together with their children and granddaughters, played an important part in the community of the village.

Oggay says that they are the ones who bring in money. The batok’s indigenous inking too is carried out by women. In the history of tattooing in Kalinga, Oggay is the first woman to work as a tattoo artist.

However, it is possible that she is not the last Mambabatok. A shift has happened through time, and today younger women are continuing the tradition that has been going on for ages. They’re tattooing their way out of poverty for the community.

Claire (on the left) and Elyang (on the right) are the breadwinners of their families.

Claire (on the left) and Elyang (on the right) are the breadwinners of their family.

Buscalan Village has a population of roughly 700 people. There are about 20 young women in the community who are dedicated to the profession of skin painting.

Among the group, Inga was the youngest member, having only turned nine in 2018.

It is widely accepted that Grace Palicas and Elyang Wigan, Fang-od’s grandnieces are the most talented. They are also in high demand as tattoo artists among the descendants of these warriors.

Also, they are the only two female tattoo artists that Fang-od would let work with her. They are the only ones who get to experience this.  Grace has been practicing her tattooing abilities on Oggay’s arms since she was nine years old.

After turning 101, her energy levels dipped, but her vision remained clear. She has vowed to continue tattooing until she loses her sight, but she also imagines of a less busy life. She said that she wants to take some time off in the near future.

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