Currently testing the limits of body art as a medium, Simranh Kakkar is a tattoo artist, animator, and storyteller interested in merging different practices with tattoos to create unique outcomes. An alumnus of Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology, the young creative was inspired to start her journey with animation through their graduation project.
The artist believes that tattoos have played a key role in India’s cultural traditions for thousands of years. They function as a medium for creating strong bonds with one’s culture, much like folktales and oral storytelling traditions do. Be it traditional pieces in villages that symbolise tribal and communal historical events, or modern machine tattoos holding personal significance for the wearer; the tales told through body art always remain relevant.
Heavy on stories from Southern India, Simranh hopes to integrate the languages and cultures of the South with Indian folklore. Similarly, as is true for so many of us, the many tales narrated to us in childhood tend to stick and form a huge part of our imagination. Taking these aspects forward the artist produced the ‘Tiger Tattoo Project’ to honour the country’s cultural spirit.
Combining their love for animation and tattooing, the artist created a short GIF documenting 24 tattoos on 24 individuals, with attached recordings of folktales narrated in their mother tongue and featuring tigers that inspired the tattoos. As each tattoo is morphed according to cultural and geographical cues, it presents a vibrant picture of India’s storytelling tradition.
Each person in the country has heard a folk tale that had a tiger in it. There is a unique connection with the wild that comes through in our stories. Simranh collected multiple folk tales about tigers from Kerala to Bengal in order to commemorate the tradition. All the wearers and therefore the tattoos have now gone out into the world, each carrying a story within them.
While going through all 24 stories, one is introduced to the emblematic cultural icons of different states. As some wearers narrate the story told to them during childhood, others introduce us to the mythical past of their land. Additionally, some intriguing narrations even dive deep into moral subjects and symbolic practices of a certain culture.
The artist’s hope is that the initial storytelling that occurred in the project space is taken forward and every time the wearer is questioned about why they got this tattoo the same folktale will further be propagated into the world; carrying ahead the complex and multi-layered tradition of oral storytelling through the use of the ubiquitous folk icon that is the tiger.
Find the Tiger Tattoo Project here.