Conventional Croatian tattoos: meet the tattoo artist who retains the custom alive

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Hand tattooing was a widespread custom amongst Croatian Catholic girls in Bosnia and Herzegovina throughout Ottoman rule centuries in the past.

This custom has its origins in locations as soon as occupied by Turks and its goal was to stop younger Catholic girls from being kidnapped and transformed to Islam. The tattoo symbols on the hand, nevertheless, date again even additional than this era.

The customized was primarily revived in the course of the reign and concern of the Ottoman Empire, when Christian symbols have been used for defense.

Conventional symbols included crosses, generally tattooed round girls’s wrists to seem like bracelets. The cross additionally has its variations within the type of a small pine tree. The kolo (circle), a motif taken from the kolo dance within the villages, was additionally tattooed, which symbolized togetherness.

Traditional Croatian Tattoos

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Based on historians, younger individuals, normally ladies, have been tattooed between 12 and 16 years outdated. Some have been tattooed even youthful.

The normal tattooing ceremony was known as “sicanje” or “bocanje” and was normally carried out by older girls utilizing a needle and a mix of charcoal or gunpowder and honey or milk.

The customized was practiced in central and southern Bosnia, across the city of Jajce, in addition to in Rama, Uskoplje, Kupres and Kraljeva Sutjeska, and in components of the Dalmatian hinterland in Croatia, between Sinj and Šibenik and in Dubrovnik-Neretva County.

Traditional Croatian Tattoos

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Right now, conventional tattoos have gotten common once more and one particular person maintaining the standard alive within the conventional method is Melissa, a 29-year-old tattoo artist in Paris.

Born to a Bosnian father from Croatia and a French mom, whom he met whereas on trip in Dubrovnik, Melissa grew up within the south of France.

After finding out utilized arts and structure for 7 years and dealing as a contract architect for 4 years in Canada and Paris, she determined to vary course and develop into a tattoo artist.

Keen about ethnic tattoos, Melissa carries on the old style custom with out utilizing a machine however solely needles.

We caught up together with her to be taught extra about her story and the way she retains the custom alive.

Had been you intently linked to your tradition whereas rising up?

To be trustworthy I do not communicate Croatian (just some chatter and expressions) and wished to discover a option to categorical myself and be extra related with my father’s tradition.

After I began tattooing, I began to analysis increasingly conventional tattoos from Croatia and Bosnia. I completely wished to combine this heritage into my artwork and discover it. I am tremendous pleased with my roots and it is an honor for me to share them with individuals. The Balkan group in France is sort of small and the French are actually interested by this tradition. I spent my summer time trip in Croatia with my household after I was youthful however have not been there for a very long time.

Touring is one among my many passions and in recent times I’ve wished to find new nations and new cultures by way of a couple of solo journeys… However visiting the Balkans throughout a summer time highway journey is a part of my venture dream. Maybe I may combine tattooing into this journey now that I’m extra free in my exercise than after I was an architect.

Traditional Croatian Tattoos

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How did you begin tattooing?

I’ve at all times drawn, I actually take pleasure in every kind of creative expressions however tattooing grew to become a ardour after I moved to Montreal, Canada the place I had my first worldwide solo expertise for a 12 months.

There are lots of nice tattoo artists in Canada and tattoos are quite common there. I promised myself that someday I’ll attempt to tattoo. I returned to France and was absorbed in my day by day routine as an architect. I spotted in the course of the first COVID lockdown that I used to be not 100% proud of my life and wanted to vary one thing. I ordered some tattoo provides and tried utilizing it on myself, then my mates and some purchasers.

I opened my very own non-public tattoo studio in September 2020 and it was the very best choice of my life. Now that I can absolutely categorical myself by way of my artwork and creativity, I’ve met some wonderful individuals.

How did you get within the conventional Croatian-Bosnian tattoo and what did you find out about it?

I’m captivated with ethnic tattoos, at all times researching the historical past and origins of tattooing. Sooner or later I unintentionally discovered some Croatian-Bosnian tattoo designs and was tremendous curious. So I explored extra about them and found the work of Ćiro Truhelka, a Croatian archaeologist, historian and artwork historian who has accomplished lots of analysis on conventional tattoos.

Clearly, after I began tattooing the concept of ​​integrating my tradition into my work made sense and I deepened the topic by way of articles, testimonials … I additionally discovered the location “Croatia Week” throughout of my analysis.

I realized that beneath the Ottoman Empire, between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, when Bosnia was occupied by the Turks, younger Christian girls of Croatian origin have been tattooed with these symbols so as to be protected towards kidnapping. In the event that they have been caught, these tattoos enabled them to recollect their true Christian religion within the occasion of conversion to Islam. The origins of this outdated custom might be within the Illyrian and Celtic tribes and their rituals round these areas. The tattooing ceremony was known as “sicanje” or “bocanje”. This was normally accomplished by older girls making use of a mix of charcoal or gunpowder, honey and milk (breast milk after having a child) after the image was tattooed on the physique with a needle. These tattoos are primarily discovered on the palms, fingers, forearm and generally the higher arm and chest.

You’ve got plenty of conventional tattoos your self, what do they signify to you personally?

For me these tattoos are the expression of my tradition but additionally of my femininity. With these symbols, I really feel pleased with my Croatian half but additionally protected as a stronger girl. I voluntarily selected to put them on my hand and fingers, like custom, as a result of these components of my physique are by no means coated they usually present my id with these adornments.

Traditional Croatian Tattoos

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Traditional Croatian Tattoos

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Traditional Croatian Tattoos

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Did you do that your self?

The flyer (kolo) on my hand was made by one other tattoo artist in Rotterdam by hand, I introduced the design to him and defined to him the connection between this design and my tradition (I did it 2 years in the past years and didn’t know) how one can tattoo then). The tattoos on my fingers have been accomplished by me and I need to do a big Bosnian Croatian composition on my leg quickly, on my own after all, as a result of my arms are already full.

Do you may have your individual studio now?

I’ve my very own non-public studio in Paris, within the tenth arrondissement of the town. It is a secret place the place I solely ship the handle when somebody makes an appointment with me. I favor to maintain an intimate surroundings and never be disturbed in the course of the tattoo session. I designed the entire area utilizing my architectural expertise and created a very cozy and heat studio the place individuals can really feel assured.

You solely work in a conventional method with out a machine. Are you able to say extra in regards to the model and what you want.

Sure, I solely use easy needles with none machines. The handpoke approach is an ancestral tattoo approach practiced by a minority of tattooists. All the things is completed manually with a traditional tattoo needle dipped in ink the place the aim is to make a large number of small dots which can then kind traces or shadows.

The handpoke approach gives a unique expertise to clients. It is much less painful and fewer noisy than the machine, this silent approach permits me to be extra related with the shopper, we will actually trade and talk about. I additionally consider in artwork remedy by way of tattoos and it’s generally a great way for some individuals to launch all their feelings in the course of the session. For me, it is a combine between artwork and craft.

Traditional Croatian Tattoos

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Do you may have many requests for conventional Croatian-Bosnian tattoos on individuals? Are there some symbols extra common than others?

Sure, I’ve many requests for these conventional tattoos. However each time somebody is concerned with conventional symbols, the particular person asks me lots of questions in regards to the story, we discuss in regards to the problem of cultural appropriation. I see lots of tattoo artists utilizing these symbols with out mentioning the place they got here from.

Traditional Croatian Tattoos

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A few of them additionally wrote that they’re their very own creation, or that they’re “Berber” symbols. For me, that is completely disrespectful. Each time I submit about these symbols I clarify their origins, I even have a particular story on instagram the place individuals can learn in French and English the that means of those symbols. For me, it is tremendous necessary to share my tradition and to observe this artwork with respect and conscience. After I create a particular composition impressed by these conventional symbols, I at all times specify it.

Traditional Croatian Tattoos

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Individuals could also be concerned with it as a result of they’re Croatians, Bosnians or Christians. Typically, girls need to be inked for defense, as was accomplished up to now. There’s a actual modern connection between the actual situations of ladies, the feminist problem and these tattoos which might be interpreted as an indication of emancipation. Tattoos have been accomplished by girls on girls and their goal was to guard them and provides them energy. The preferred is the kolo (circle) as a result of it refers to union, household, group. I used to be actually shocked that the French might be very enthusiastic and interested by this tradition. Many individuals have written to me thanking me as a result of they’re studying new issues from my content material.

Traditional Croatian Tattoos

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Are you able to assist somebody acknowledge a Bosnian Croatian tattoo?

Most individuals confuse Berber and Croatian Bosnian tattoos. Berbers are made up of geometric traces, diamond shapes and crossings.

The Croatian-Bosnian tattoos are extra round, we additionally discover the image of the cross and a few ornaments referring to the ears of wheat and the leaves. While you examine Berber and Balkan tattoos and take a better look, you possibly can see the distinction in geometry and composition.

Traditional Croatian Tattoos

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What are your plans for the longer term?

I want to proceed to develop my tattoo approach and be taught extra about Croatian-Bosnian tattoos. Certain, being invited as a tattoo artist to a tattoo store in Croatia and Bosnia is on my to-do checklist for 2021, however with the virus it’s fairly troublesome to plan a visit.

I might additionally like to begin writing about tattooing and remedy, the psychological side of this artwork is unknown however there may be a lot to speak about. Particularly for ladies and their bodily appropriation.

How can individuals discover you and your studio on social media?

You’ll find my work on instagram on @melpzvc and for the studio @ melrose.studio.paris.





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