Mark Batty Publisher, New York. 2008. 127 pages. 8vo (20,5 x 18 cm). Stiff paper wrappers with fold over flaps. Photographs in colour and b/w. First edition. New copy.
It’s no secret that tattoos have become a commonly accepted and popular form of self-expression; people young and old wear sleeves of ink, or little designs that peek out from the top of a waistband or the collar of a shirt. Over the past few years, however, a sub-genre of tattoos has emerged: Arabic tattoos.
Although Islam prohibits tattooing, Arabic Tattoos documents the reasons why people from the United States and Europe get these tattoos, ranging from names converted from Latin alphabets to Arabic, to bold words like “infidel” emblazoned on US soldiers returning to Iraq.
Jon Udelson, the book’s compiler, writes, “These tattoos signify more than the words and designs they showcase upon a person’s skin. They are representative of the this crucial point in modern time where cultural awareness, acceptance, and, unfortunately, fear, are salient aspects of global culture.”
Along with the photographs of these tattoos and the stories from their recipients, designers and inkers, essays from tattoo expert Clayton Patterson and Egyptian artist Hamdi Attia provide a thoughtful context for these tattoos.
The purpose of Arabic Tattoos is to illuminate questions like To whom does a language belong? and in doing so add to an ever expanding public discourse that involves philosophy, religion, politics and art, arriving at a higher understanding of this multi-cultural world in which we live.