The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga by JAKE VERZOSA
In The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga, Jake Verzosa weaves a very delicate balance of incorporating history’s desire to render a record of a particular culture and milieu. There is a poetic romanticism in trying to capture a dying culture. In the photographer’s words, “the main purpose of doing this was to document the last remaining people who adorn these tattoos and to hopefully reverse the changing perception of beauty among the Kalinga. The tattoos used to be a symbol of beauty, wealth, and honor but now, most see them as ancient, barbaric, and a stigma.”
The women in this series reveal unfeigned beauty that seeps through a deep tradition of honor, bravery, wealth, and beauty. Each subject speaks of a certain regard to Verzosa’s lens which both unveils or decodes a particular mystery about the Kalinga tribe, and masks other actualities alongside them. To this day little is known about this longstanding tradition of the Kalingas. This particular tradition goes beyond personal, sociological, and philosophical ideologies that are being consigned to oblivion. Verzosa’s series delicately puts an attempt to disrupt the cycle and to create a chronicle of a dying tradition of an oft-misunderstood tribe.
The project came into being in 2010 and has come to evolve on its own through the years. Verzosa says this project “is an important document of our time.” It may seem a seemingly simple attempt at keeping a record of a dying tradition and culture, a contemporary sort of lamentation while at the same time a celebratory attempt. Furthermore, it’s also a riveting narrative on beauty. These tattoos signify the pain of beauty as they are done through an arduous process, but they also become testimonies and a sort of triumph for these women. On the outset, what seems like women with tattooed skins patterned as if by a lacy sweater delicately unveil their own particular story, their own particular struggle, and their own particular triumph as seen through these intricate etchings on their skins.
The series is accompanied by a book of the same title, published by Silverlens, which had its grand launch at Paris Photo 2014.