Photographer: Watts and Skeen
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a Burmese youth having his arm tattooed in Burma (Myanmar), taken by the firm of Watts and Skeen in the 1890s, from the Curzon Collection. In this view the rather unhappy looking youth lies on the ground, his arm resting on a cushion and held down by the feet of the seated tattooist. The tattoo would be created by incising a series of punctures using a pointed stylus fitted to a hollow brass instrument containing pigment. Designs were of real and mythological beings surrounded by protective patterns of letters and numbers. They were considered to confer various powers and qualities on the bearer and enhance physical beauty. Traditionally, every young man in Burma would have been tattooed on the upper body and from the knee to the waist. The tattoos marked a rite of passage into manhood and were a sign of bravery because of the pain endured.