Tattoos and taboo in Khmer tradition

Srey Kumneth / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

THERE is magic in ink, as there are taboos to be observed once a tattoo design is dyed into your body pigments.

This mystery of magic and ink surfaced at the INK Festival hosted by Future Factory last Saturday as Mith Samlanh (Friends-International Organization) organised the event featuring seven tattoo artists.

Both traditional Khmer permanent magic tattoos and Henna (foreigners) artists met up with new customers at their stalls promoting the art form of ink flash tattoos and a henna tattoo corner (drawing on the hands), while the curious public browsed through a beauty station, a kids playground and curated pop up stalls.

Moreover, both Khmer tattoo and henna artists (photos) will be donating a portion of their profits on that day to Mith Samlanh.

A Khmer traditional tattooist, Sun Chumno, 27, said his team is promoting Khmer traditional magic tattoos. He added all proceeds from sales will be donated to Mith Samlanh.

“For local people I requested 10$ per person and charged foreigners at 30$ each. All the profits today, I will give to the NGO. I don’t want to any benefits as I really want to promote Khmer tattoos that we have been practicing since centuries ago,” Mr Chumno said.

He started young and now owns regular shops, one in Phnom Penh, and the other in Siem Reap.

His ink supply was previously sourced from Khmer tradition but changing along with global trends, Mr Chumno established that his ink now comes from America, while other materials are imported from Thailand.

“The ink is generally not harmful to the body and the tattoo can last a lifetime. The standard of ink will suit all skin types but with traditional ink, we have to be cautious due to skin allergy. So I change to new standards to make people more comfortable,” said Mr Chumno, who now has some 2,000 thousand people, mostly young, bearing his tattoo art.

Mr Chumno emphasized that he only works on 18-year-olds and above while clients hovering at 18 or younger must have parental permission.

To bear certain tattoos, some taboos dictate that a person must be good-hearted and not “cause the loss of a life/living thing” and abstain from alcohol.

“People with magic tattoos have to follow the rules or the magic will never be effective,” and he adds that “(in the event of a violation) people come to see me or a monk for re-blessing or consecration again every three months.”

Arguably held as the first of its kind in Phnom Penh, the event also saw hundreds of visitors spending family-time with entertainment of live music and singing performances.

 

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