Tunisian Tattoo Artist Brings Back Berber Patterns for the Next Generation

Traditional Berber tattoos, long out of style, are making a comeback thanks to the efforts of Tunisian tattoo artist Manel Mahdouani.

Today, only a small minority of Tunisians still speak the Berber languages that are more widely spoken in neighboring Algeria and Morocco, and most overt displays of Berber identity are limited to tourist souvenirs with Berber-inspired designs.

Some younger Tunisians are interested in their Berber heritage, and they turn to Mahdouani, 35, to help them make a connection to it through tattoos.

“Every sign and tattoo has a meaning,” Loula, whose upper breast was covered with a pattern of dark blue dots, remarked. She praised the tattoos because they let women maintain their tribal or familial identities.

“As so, a woman’s past is literally etched into her. It’s just like a wall on Facebook, but this is MY wall “she stated while declining to provide her surname.

Some younger Tunisians adopted the global trend of tattooing without considering their country’s long history of body art.

According to Mahdouani, many people in Tunisia now view people with Berber tattoos as being of low social status. She said that “people used to say it was backward.”

Tunisian tattoo artist

“To alter this concept was a goal of mine. Like the Maori and other tribal tattoos, which have gained worldwide recognition, the custom of getting a henna tattoo in Tunisia dates back at least 6,000 years “, she remarked.

Mahogany has studied the Berber “tekaz” tattoo tradition, collecting designs and learning about the practice of utilizing body art to ward off sickness or bad luck via various symbols on different places of the body.

Mahdouani questioned Seiada Issaoui, an old woman with tattoos on her forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin, about the frequency of tattoos when she was young in a town outside of the center city of Kairouan.

“The entire group had tattoos. It’s not just on their stomachs; it’s also on their thighs, arms, and chests “It was Issaoui who made the remark.

Subsequently, Mahdouani meticulously replicated Issaoui’s plans.

She explained that she wanted young people to understand the significance of the practice even if they didn’t want to participate in it themselves.

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