Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A celebration of art on skin

A celebration of art on skin

A celebration of art on skin

Olivier de Bernon, author of Yantra et Mantra, will be speaking on Cambodian ritual tattooing on Saturday February 6 as part of the French Institute’s upcoming exhibition Adorned Body, Transformed Body. The exhibition – first shown at the Perfume Museum in Grasse, southern France – charts the complex and varied history of make-up, body paint, tattoos, piercing and other bodily transformations around the world.

According to Gregory Couderc, one of the exhibition’s co-curators, the magical function of bodily adornment no longer plays a role in Western countries. “In the Occident, tattoos are more or less devoid of magic, even though they may well have emotional significance for the wearer,” he explained via email. “The aesthetics of the pattern outweigh the profound meaning.”

But he said that Southeast Asia was by no means the only place where spirituality and superstition played a part in getting inked: in Papau New Guinea, the Iatmul ethnic group perform scarification during a coming-of-age ritual that mimics the scales of the crocodile god, and in India and the Maghreb, kohl make-up is believed to protect against evil attacks.

And in Europe, Couderc pointed out, tattoos continue to act as important social signifiers, particularly for communicating sub-culture affiliation among punks and goths. The same is true the world over: in New Zealand and Polynesia, tattoos are strictly coded in ways that announce social hierarchies.

Couderc said that while “borrowing” between cultures had always existed, globalisation had accentuated this trend. “In passing from one civilisation to another, bodily markers lose their traditional significance, their magic, as well as the beliefs that surround them,” he wore. “Only the aesthetic persists.”

Adorned Body, Transformed Body opens at the French Institute, #218 Street 184, on Thursday, January 28.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hundreds of children in hospital with dengue

    A serious dengue fever epidemic is affecting Cambodia, with nearly 600 children hospitalised in the five Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals on Monday alone, a statement posted on the Kantha Bopha Foundation’s official Facebook page said on Wednesday. Because Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals provide

  • Sihanoukville building collapse death toll rises to 19

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said on Sunday that the government will act against those responsible for the collapse of a seven-storey building in Sihanoukville on Saturday, which resulted in 19 dead and 24 injured as of Sunday evening. Sar Kheng said three Chinese nationals and one

  • Gov’t to probe Chinese exports to US via Sihanoukville

    The government is investigating allegations that Chinese companies are using Chinese-owned special economic zones in Cambodia to export goods to the US and avoid tariffs, said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay. The move comes after US embassy spokesman Arend Zwartjes said the US had

  • Banh: The Khmer Rouge worse than sanctions and pressure

    Minister of National Defence Tea Banh said on Thursday that having sanctions and external pressure placed on Cambodia was not worse than life under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Tea Banh, who is also deputy prime minister, was speaking to military and ruling party officials