Pancouver-Logo

Become a Cultural Navigator

Become a Cultural Navigator

Museum of Vancouver’s True Tribal exhibition will showcase contemporary Indigenous tattoo artistry

Tattoo
Co-curator and artist Dion Kaszas says that True Tribal seeks to enliven Indigenous communities' relationship with their ancestral visual languages.

In 1991, two tourists came across ancient human remains in a glacier in the Italian Alps. According to an article in Discover, the person now referred to as Ötzi the Iceman had 61 tattoos. This body art could only be discovered with the help of modern-day imaging technology.

“Interestingly, approximately 80 percent of the Iceman’s tattoos overlap with classical acupuncture points used to treat rheumatism, a medical condition that plagued him,” tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak later told the Smithsonian magazine. “Other tattoos were found to be located on or near acupuncture meridians.”

Krutak went on to say that it’s a “common myth” that tribal tattoos were purely for ornamental purposes.

“Most tattoos identified tribal designation, related the social accomplishments of the individuals who wore them or functioned as medicinal therapy or as apotropaic [evil-repelling] symbols,” he continued. “In short, I see body marking as a kind of biographical language.”

This is worth keeping in mind in light of an upcoming exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver. True Tribal: Contemporary Expressions of Ancestral Tattoo Practices will examine Indigenous tattooing from different regions over the past 30 years.

tattoo
Dion Kaszas created this tattoo.

Tattoo artistry comes from around the globe

Nlaka’pamux artist and podcaster Dion Kaszas and Iota Institute founder and artistic director Mireille Bourgeois co-curated True Tribal. They worked in collaboration with the curatorial team at the Museum of Vancouver.

True Tribal opens on March 28 and features tattoo artists of Indigenous ancestry from Turtle Island (North America), Aotearoa (New Zealand), India, and Polynesia.

“This exhibition seeks to enliven our community’s relationship to their ancestral visual languages, which are written on the rocks, in our families’ homes or on ancestral belongings in museum collections,” Kaszas said in a news release.

He’s one of several Indigenous tattoo artists whose work will be highlighted. It will appear alongside cultural belongings, which serve as a “visual dictionary”, according to the museum. Other artists include Tristen Jenni Sanderson (Woodland and Plains Cree), Terje Koloamatangi (Tongan), Nolan Malbeuf (Métis), Mo-Naga (Uipo Naga), Julie Paama-Pengelly (Māori), Gordon Sparks (Mi’kmaq), and Nathalie Standingcloud (Cherokee).

The IOTA Institute, a Nova Scotia-based art collective and creative agency, is co-managing the project.

For more information, visit the Museum of Vancouver website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

Take Action Now

Pancouver fuels creativity and promotes a more inclusive society. You can contribute to support our mission of shining a spotlight on diverse artists. Donations from within Canada qualify for a tax receipt.

Share this article

Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

Subscribe

Tags

Related Articles

The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation). With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.

The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

© 2023 The Society of We Are Canadians Too Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions

We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.