ArabInk:

هي سلسلة من الصور الوثائقية حول الأوشام العربية في العالم العربي، ودورها في تطوير أنماط جديدة من الخط العربي، ومعانيها وتأثيرها على جيل عربي

is an on-going photo-documentary series about Arabic tattoos in the Arab world, their role in the development of new styles of calligraphy, and their meaning and impact on the people photographed.

 

Please hover over the images with the pointer to display each subjects personally written account of their tattoo.

The images below are a small sample of this project   ...  الصور  نموذج صغير من هذا المشروع

“Ummi” (My Mother) trickled down the back of her neck in thick, black geometric lines. I encourage my subjects to tell the story behind their tattoos.  However, as I watched her play back the meaning in her own mind, I could see that she wasn’t quite prepared to expose it past the skin’s surface.

Some people are anxious to discuss the meaning behind the Arabic calligraphy floating across their arm, back, ankle or wrists; they have poignant and revealing stories.  Others prefer to let the tattoo speak for itself, with a story that they feel is too powerful or personal to express otherwise.

Tattoos have emerged as a new medium, not only for the art of Arabic calligraphy, but for a new generation of Arab youth who are searching for a means of defining their identity. While Western media constantly reduces the Middle East to a religion-centric war zone, they fail to notice the linguistic and cultural similarities that unify Arab people beyond religious affiliation. 

Each photograph cuts away the distracting stereotypes of conservatism and strict religious teachings.  At once, it reveals a more complex and diverse people and culture, with a singular means of expressing their identity through the Arabic language.

Each encounter becomes a raw exposure of the individual’s persona: Who do they love?  Where are they from? What do they believe?

تنسدل كلمة "أمي" (والدتي) خلف عنقها بخط أسود عريض. كثيرا ما أشجع من حولي على سرد حكاياتهم وراء الوشم الذي يحملونه.  لكن، بينما كنت أراقبها وهي تسترجع أحداث قصتها في ذهنها، أدركت أنها غير مستعدة للبوح بأكثر مما ينطوي عليه ذلك الوشم

 

يتلهف بعض الأشخاص لمناقشة المعنى وراء ذلك الخط العربي الذي يزين أذرعهم أو أظهرهم أو كواحلهم أو معصمهم، فلديهم الكثير من الحكايات المؤثرة والكاشفة.  ويفضل آخرون أن يعبر الوشم عن نفسه، لأنه يسرد قصتهم أو يعبر عن شخصيتهم بشكل أفضل

 

ظهر الوشم كوسيلة جديدة، ليس فقط لفن الخط العربي، ولكن لجيل جديد من الشباب العربي الذين يبحثون عن وسيلة للتعريف بهويتهم. فبينما تقلل وسائل الإعلام الغربية باستمرار من شأن الشرق الأوسط باعتباره مركزا للحروب الدينية، لم يلحظوا أوجه الشبه اللغوية والثقافية التي توحد الشعب العربي بشكل يتجاوز الانتماءات الدينية

تدفع كل صورة بعيدا الصور النمطية المشتتة عن المحافظة والتعاليم الدينية الصارمة.  ففي آن واحد، تكشف هذه الصور عن أشخاص أكثر تعقيدا وتنوعا وثقافة مع وسيلة فريدة للتعبير عن هويتهم من خلال اللغة العربية

 

يصبح كل لقاء لحظة انكشاف لشخصيتهم: من يحبون؟ من أين هم؟ بماذا يؤمنون؟

 

“Language is the key to the heart of the people.” – Ahmed Deedat


"In loving memory of my father. My world changed when my dad passed away. Little did I know that I will never be the same. They say time heals all wounds. I'm still waiting for my wounds to heal. Perhaps they will eventually, but for the meantime I still get emotional.  In loving memory of beloved father I got inked with his name so it could be a constant reminder of a great man and a role model to all for 76 years, a husband for my mother for 47 years and a father to my sister and me for 41 years. Words can not express my feelings and my love for such a great man. May Allah grant him the highest level of Paradise."

"In loving memory of my father. My world changed when my dad passed away. Little did I know that I will never be the same. They say time heals all wounds. I'm still waiting for my wounds to heal. Perhaps they will eventually, but for the meantime I still get emotional. 
In loving memory of beloved father I got inked with his name so it could be a constant reminder of a great man and a role model to all for 76 years, a husband for my mother for 47 years and a father to my sister and me for 41 years. Words can not express my feelings and my love for such a great man. May Allah grant him the highest level of Paradise."

"وتزعم أنك جرم صغير وفيك أنطوى العالم الأكبر". It's a well known quote for Al Imam Ali although that's not what makes it of interest to me. For the past ten years I've been contemplating getting a tattoo, I was always hesitant because I wanted to get something that I felt I truly connected to and that meant something to me that wouldn't change with time. During these past years and whenever I reflected on life (usually sadly when feeling down) I would remember this quote. To me it means: We as humans generally think we are tiny unimportant known and understood beings in a vast universe that is quite the opposite (still unknown and still to be studied and understood fully), but what I feel and believe is true is that we as humans are yet to know ourselves and understand ourselves and how we function and the entire relationship between our physical and psychological being. We contain within us, within our physical bodies and our brains and our psychology and being the entire universe (or at least what reflects the entire universe) and all these complex processes, feelings, experiences and reactions; and whenever we look inwards we learn more about ourselves and what/how we learn and believe and feel and act, and that is a journey of knowing and growing that (to me) will never end, and it is a journey of inquiry and search that intrigues me much more than understanding anything else about this big world we live in externally.

"وتزعم أنك جرم صغير وفيك أنطوى العالم الأكبر". It's a well known quote for Al Imam Ali although that's not what makes it of interest to me. For the past ten years I've been contemplating getting a tattoo, I was always hesitant because I wanted to get something that I felt I truly connected to and that meant something to me that wouldn't change with time. During these past years and whenever I reflected on life (usually sadly when feeling down) I would remember this quote. To me it means: We as humans generally think we are tiny unimportant known and understood beings in a vast universe that is quite the opposite (still unknown and still to be studied and understood fully), but what I feel and believe is true is that we as humans are yet to know ourselves and understand ourselves and how we function and the entire relationship between our physical and psychological being. We contain within us, within our physical bodies and our brains and our psychology and being the entire universe (or at least what reflects the entire universe) and all these complex processes, feelings, experiences and reactions; and whenever we look inwards we learn more about ourselves and what/how we learn and believe and feel and act, and that is a journey of knowing and growing that (to me) will never end, and it is a journey of inquiry and search that intrigues me much more than understanding anything else about this big world we live in externally.

Freedom - حرية "It's two pieces; the first one I got when I was 16 is the Egyptian sign and it means the key of life. At the time I loved the symbol and today it's spiritual to me.. I hold my own key to life. I later got the Arabic calligraphy of freedom tattooed around it.. I fell in love with the art of calligraphy there's something mesmerising about the lines and curves and how it takes you a few minutes to realise what's actually said.. And freedom is a word I believe everyone loves and to have it on me gives me my own sense of freedom."

Freedom - حرية

"It's two pieces; the first one I got when I was 16 is the Egyptian sign and it means the key of life. At the time I loved the symbol and today it's spiritual to me.. I hold my own key to life. I later got the Arabic calligraphy of freedom tattooed around it.. I fell in love with the art of calligraphy there's something mesmerising about the lines and curves and how it takes you a few minutes to realise what's actually said.. And freedom is a word I believe everyone loves and to have it on me gives me my own sense of freedom."

Ola - عُلا "After my mother's name."

Ola - عُلا

"After my mother's name."

الحرية - Freedom

الحرية - Freedom

Talal Sutan AlHasan - طلال سطعان الحسن "My father's full name, middle name is also my younger brother and last name is my elder brother. It's a way for me to be closer to my father after he died in 2003. He loved life, had presence and made sure everyone was happy around him. He helped a lot of people. I looked and still look up to him deeply and was an inspirational figure whom I admired. He was a very diplomatic and charismatic man who loved his family and built a great environment for them. My brothers are also very important individuals, same goes for my mother and sister. We are very different from each other, with each his/her own energy and vibe, but when we unite it's wonderful."

Talal Sutan AlHasan - طلال سطعان الحسن

"My father's full name, middle name is also my younger brother and last name is my elder brother. It's a way for me to be closer to my father after he died in 2003. He loved life, had presence and made sure everyone was happy around him. He helped a lot of people. I looked and still look up to him deeply and was an inspirational figure whom I admired. He was a very diplomatic and charismatic man who loved his family and built a great environment for them. My brothers are also very important individuals, same goes for my mother and sister. We are very different from each other, with each his/her own energy and vibe, but when we unite it's wonderful."

"It means Angel (Malak ملاك).. I've always believed in guardian angels and spirits around us, so for my tattoo i wanted to combine two things I loved, calligraphy and angels.. Now I feel protected because I have my guardian angels all around me.."

"It means Angel (Malak ملاك).. I've always believed in guardian angels and spirits around us, so for my tattoo i wanted to combine two things I loved, calligraphy and angels.. Now I feel protected because I have my guardian angels all around me.."

لا تخشى من الموت لكن من حياة لم تعشها، لن تحيا أبد الدهر فاحرص على أن تحيا / 'Do not fear death, fear a life not lived'

لا تخشى من الموت لكن من حياة لم تعشها، لن تحيا أبد الدهر فاحرص على أن تحيا / 'Do not fear death, fear a life not lived'

"على هذه الأرض ما يستحقّ الحياة." – محمود درويش I am a PhD holder, and for us particularly, tattoos are taboos in the Middle East. Thus, with my tattoo I try to debunk stereotypes and resist the status quo. I believe my body is mine - as long as I am alive, to use and abuse. My body is my own canvas on which I paint and draw. My skin is the walls on which I graffiti.  I believe a tattoo is a form of art. A tattoo and a poem, for example, are the same: both are crafted with patience and love. They are both painfully beautiful and beautifully painful.  I did it for the idea of Palestine; the memory, not the geography.

"على هذه الأرض ما يستحقّ الحياة." – محمود درويش

I am a PhD holder, and for us particularly, tattoos are taboos in the Middle East. Thus, with my tattoo I try to debunk stereotypes and resist the status quo. I believe my body is mine - as long as I am alive, to use and abuse. My body is my own canvas on which I paint and draw. My skin is the walls on which I graffiti. 
I believe a tattoo is a form of art. A tattoo and a poem, for example, are the same: both are crafted with patience and love. They are both painfully beautiful and beautifully painful.  I did it for the idea of Palestine; the memory, not the geography.

"Ala' is not a familiar name, arabs tend to prounouce it as علاء, which is a male's name, while foreigners, on the other hand, tend to pronounce it as Allah as it is hard for them to pronounce the hamza. The sentence tattooed is a phrase from the Qur'an holding this intricate name, and meaning "So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?" where my name stands for the favor in particular, as for the choice of the calligraphy, it was taken from a 325 year-old unique handwritten Qur'an."

"Ala' is not a familiar name, arabs tend to prounouce it as علاء, which is a male's name, while foreigners, on the other hand, tend to pronounce it as Allah as it is hard for them to pronounce the hamza. The sentence tattooed is a phrase from the Qur'an holding this intricate name, and meaning "So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?" where my name stands for the favor in particular, as for the choice of the calligraphy, it was taken from a 325 year-old unique handwritten Qur'an."

In the subject's own words... "Patience is an illustration of my soul; it depicts a story that's rife with struggle and self conflict that it became the single most omnipresent aspect in my life. To elaborate, I've been dealing with depression for the past 6 years, it's been difficult for me to maintain the illusion of content throughout those 6 years. Patience to me is hope, a hope for a better future, a hope that everything will be alright despite the constant disbelief in my head, I'm not ashamed to say that I did give up hope a couple of times, I succumbed to my disease and lost my will to continue marching forward. The tattoo is a memento to remind myself that I should never lose hope, no matter how bleak the future appears to be to me."

In the subject's own words... "Patience is an illustration of my soul; it depicts a story that's rife with struggle and self conflict that it became the single most omnipresent aspect in my life. To elaborate, I've been dealing with depression for the past 6 years, it's been difficult for me to maintain the illusion of content throughout those 6 years. Patience to me is hope, a hope for a better future, a hope that everything will be alright despite the constant disbelief in my head, I'm not ashamed to say that I did give up hope a couple of times, I succumbed to my disease and lost my will to continue marching forward. The tattoo is a memento to remind myself that I should never lose hope, no matter how bleak the future appears to be to me."

""Kayan" means "being". The tattoo is a self-tribute to the simple notion of existence, my personal memento mori. Remember, thou shalt die. It's not as cynical as it sounds, it's actually a reminder of the simplicity of happiness. There are more than 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. The finite speed of light and the ongoing expansion of space mean that Earth doesn’t even exist for some regions of space, because space may expand faster than the speed of light. Planet Earth itself hardly figures on the Map of Significance. The Universe — its past, its present, its future — isn’t about my ego and my inconsequential issues. So "Kayan" is about the simplicity of life and death."

""Kayan" means "being". The tattoo is a self-tribute to the simple notion of existence, my personal memento mori. Remember, thou shalt die. It's not as cynical as it sounds, it's actually a reminder of the simplicity of happiness. There are more than 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. The finite speed of light and the ongoing expansion of space mean that Earth doesn’t even exist for some regions of space, because space may expand faster than the speed of light. Planet Earth itself hardly figures on the Map of Significance. The Universe — its past, its present, its future — isn’t about my ego and my inconsequential issues. So "Kayan" is about the simplicity of life and death."