Tunisian tattoo artists revives Amazigh designs

STORY: Location: Tunis, Tunisia

This tattoo artist is reviving traditional

Amazigh designs for a new generation

(Manel Mahdouani, Tattoo artist)

“I initially did usual tattoos, then I said why not specialise in something that makes a difference in the way I work, and I found that Amazigh tattoos are not so much common in Tunisia, and it is part of our heritage."

Often called Berber by outsiders, the Amazigh are

descendants of groups indigenous to North Africa

Location: Bouhajla, Kairouan, Tunisia

MAHDOUANI: “When you got your tattoos, did all the women get tattooed?”

ISSAOUI REPLYING: “Yes, everyone was tattooed. They were tattooed on their legs, arms, and chests as well."

The body markings had fallen out of style

in Tunisia, signifying an impoverished past

Outward signs of Amazigh cultural identity were

relegated to handicrafts mass-produced for tourists

"I wanted to change this idea. Just as there are Maori and other tribal tattoos known all around the world and people are proud about their traditions, we should take pride too in a tattoo tradition going back 6,000 years in Tunisia. It is not new."

Now, younger people are becoming

interested in their Amazigh roots

(Loula, Mahdouani’s client)

“The symbols on the women's faces or hands were also the symbol of the tribe to which they belonged, her father's house, her husband's house, whether she is married or not, and all this information is inked on her... I find that all these things are like an identification card. It means a woman's history is written on her and this is what I am doing. It’s like a Facebook wall and this is my wall. Every symbol and tattoo has a meaning."