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A bride's nose piercing on her wedding day, soldiers comparing their flash tattoos in the 1940s, face painting at a sporting match, a Yamatji woman's tattoo of the spirit of all Aboriginal women...the meanings behind body art are as varied as the individuals who wear them. Body adornments and modifications are rarely applied without a story for the wearer and even more rarely do they go without eliciting a response. Documenting an array of contemporary and historical forms of altered bodies from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific in a collection of powerful images, this NLA publication sheds light on some of the more surprising parts of the collections at the National Library of Australia. Take a closer look at 'Body Art'.
Tatts the way today's woman likes art.
A generation or two ago, it was unseemly for females to display body tattoos.
Not now. How fashions change.
But there's nothing new about body adornment. It was common in ancient times.
In 1991 a 5300-year-old mummified man was discovered near the Austrian-Italian border.
He had markings on his body, including on his wrists, ankles, leg and back.
Tattoos of animals have been found in mummified remains of Siberian warriors dating back 2500 years.
Scarification has even more ancient roots.
Body painting has a longstanding tradition. There is evidence that people were grinding pigment to create powder for this up to 400,000 years ago.
The explorer William Dampier took Prince Giolo from an island in the Philippines to London in 1691 where his much-tattooed body was exhibited ‘‘for the entertainment of the upper classes''.
And Captain Cook, returning from New Zealand and other places, took the tattooed Omai back to London. Maoris have always been famed for their extensive body tattoos. Deborah Hill says that the National Library staff ‘‘like those in any workplace today, has many tattooed souls within the ranks''.
One, Jenna, is pictured with large tattoos on her arms.
The piercing of ears and noses has long been a practice with some indigenous people. So has scarification. ‘‘Incisions are made with sharp rock, bone or metal. Wounds may then be packed with soil or ash to aggravate the healing process and create a pronounced scar''. Wallona Aritta was an Australian circus performer in the early 1900s. She was tattooed all over.
An advertisement in Adelaide in 1913 said, ‘‘Wallona Aritta, the beautiful tattooed girl, will give private exhibitions for ladies.''
Body painting is another means of changing a person's appearance described in this slender volume.
This can be with the faces of children or even the application of cosmetics to the face of an adult.