A Homegrown Archive Exploring Indigenous Ink Traditions Across Indian Cultures

India Ink Archive
India Ink ArchiveIndia Ink Archive

A young hand-poke tattoo artist creating a visual archive of the indigenous ink traditions from the subcontinent, Shomil is the brains behind the viral ‘India Ink Archive’. The project recognises that tattooing is a diverse art form and is represented through unique designs in every Indian state. 

The local tattoo customs from Sindh and Gujarat vary greatly from Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. The widespread activity has been adopted by different communities over the past thousand years and they now signify important rituals of their people. However in recent years these ink traditions are now seen as primitive as they no longer fit the lifestyle of cities.

This meant that years of hand-practiced traditions would be lost due to little to no documentation. This did not sit right with Shomil who decided to start the crowdsource venture with the goal of preserving Indian heritage. The archive showcases ancestral tattoos while discussing the history behind them. They also share anecdotal stories that are passed down to every generation. 

The page tends to discuss the colonial erasure of the art form as well, exploring its impact on indigenous identity, adornment and culture; shedding light on the connection between designs and South Asian history, especially with religious motifs. Furthermore, the archive explores the relationship between womanhood and ink traditions, explaining different tattoos and their association with the milestones in women’s lives. 

The archive is helping younger generations understand traditional tattoos and their deep links with one's own heritage. If you are interested in exploring the art of Indian tattooing through fables and symbols, you can find the archive here.

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