The Artist Exploring The Middle East’s Relationship with Tattoos

Is the subculture making its way to the mainstream?

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In our digital and post-postcolonial times, more people have taken it on themselves not only to record their own histories, but to revise archives and fill in the gaps of collective memory as an act moving beyond representation. Best of all, this un-packing of the archive is inclusive, by including subcultures or marginalised voices that were previously and purposefully forgotten. Take the Middle East’s tattoo subculture as example.

That’s what Jordanian-Lebanes-Palestinian Amman-based photographer Bashar Alaeddin aims to do. Despite the tattooing practises of the Bedouin communities, little is included in global art of the rise of contemporary tattooing, and of tattooing as an emerging subculture in the Middle East. Alaeddin’s inspiration to begin the project goes back to 2013, when he was starting out as a freelance photographer and was inspired by the graffiti decorating the walls of Beirut.

It is these personal anecdotes that drew Alaeddin towards the project, which couples long comments and captions from his subject alongside an image of their tattoo, marrying their personal stories as told through language to the visual marks of the stories on their body.

Due to the influence of his mother, he grew up surrounded by calligraphy books, calligraphy and typology of the Arab language being a popular practise in both academia and art.

“The Arab world is very diverse, it’s extremely complex, but down at the heart of it we all have the same meaning,” Alaeddin reported to CNN. And this is language – the Arabic language as being the common denominator binding us all, the ink that injects itself below the surface of our skin.

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