Tribal Tattoos became popular with mainstream tattooing in the early 1990s. The first tattoo designs were mostly fire or sun inspired – which was worn as a respect to the sun gods. Initially these tattoos were worn for physical and religious functions. For instance, tribe members used tattoos to symbolize a union much like our current use of wedding rings. Tribal tattoos were also worn by tribal members as a way to identity their tribes. Getting tribal tattoos was also believed to take men to other religious levels where they could enhance their spirituality.
The word tattoo was in fact derived from the word “tatau” from Polynesian. Most of the folks in Marques, an island in Polynesia, were tattooed. They deemed those symbols as a form of language. Usually the images were inspired by animals, like sharks teeth that symbolized protection or turtles and fish that symbolized navigators. You can read more on the meanings of Polynesian Tattooing right here.
Modern Tribal Tattoos are exceptionally striking as they are most frequently comprised of thick black lines forming bold, interlocking, swirling designs. Take a look at the work of @bong_tatau for reference. Modern tribal art is an adaptation of styles from Aztec, Samoan, Polynesian, Indian, Hawaiian, Egyptian, Mayan, and Maori. These tribes traditionally used tattoos for identification and to signify social status. On the whole, the black tribal tattoo designs convey mythical and mysterious meanings individually associated with each design.
Most people choose a tattoo design based on some significance of the design in their lives. Tribal tattoos are seen as a means to express yourself without being too loud or very clear about that message.
Types of Tribal Tattoos
- Tribal cross tattoos
- Tribal sun tattoos
- Celtic tribal tattoos
- Tribal wolf tattoos
- Hawaiian tribal tattoos
- Maori tribal tattoos
- Polynesian tribal tattoos
- Tribal dragon tattoos
Depending on who you ask, today’s tribal tattoos are more a trend then fashion. You can find modern tribal tattoos with colours, random images, or elements from other tattoo styles. It’s important to remember that these are not traditional tribal tattoos – if you’re looking for a traditional tribal tattoo, we recommend doing your research and going to a well established artist within that niche. Due to a dilution in tribal designs, traditional communities today are far more cautious with the judgement of meaning in tribal tattoos.
Actors like Mike Tyson, Dwayne Johnson, Cheryl Cole and Jamie Fox are some of the more notable celebrities seen wearing tribal tattoo designs.
Image Credit: @bong_tatau