Thursday, 21 August 2014

Cedric Arnold | Yantra: The Sacred Ink

I'm quite chuffed to have found a preview of Cedric Arnold's Yantra: The Sacred Ink documentary film which features the rituals and ceremonial processes accompanying the application of tattoos in Thailand.

Having photographed the application of tattooing Wat Bang Phra, a Buddhist temple about half an hour's drive from Bangkok, I know the utmost reverence with which Thais regard their sacred tattoos, which are applied by the monastery's monks. It is here at Wat Bang Phra that every March 30 thousands of Thais and foreigners gather to watch or participate in the 'Sak Yant' festival. Sak means "tap tattoo" while Yant translates into "sacred design".

The short documentary preview uses footage shot between 2008 and 2014, which shows the tattooing process and ceremonies attached to the tradition, as well as the state of trance, or “Khong Khuen”, tattooed devotees enter when “possessed” by the spirit of their tattoos.

Cedric's writes that "For centuries, Thai men have covered their bodies with protective tattoos. Old temple murals show epic scenes of swords breaking apart when hitting a tattooed soldier’s skin. The tradition was handed down by generations of both monks and laymen who create the talismanic, protective tattoos and empower them with prayers."

The sacred tattoos in Thailand are much more than just an art form, and with a culture deeply rooted in superstition and spirituality, such tattoos are believed to have magical and healing powers. Thai men and also women have their sacred tattoos done at many Buddhist temples, for protection against evil spirits, and as good luck charms.

Cedric Arnold is a photographer specializing in portraiture, travel, documentary & corporate photography, as well as movie stills. With over 15 years experience shooting all formats from 35mm digital to 4×5 large format film, he is equally at ease working alone in remote areas or with a team of creatives and a lighting crew. In his personal work, he is often drawn towards exploring the markings of time, this can be in the subject matter itself or expressed with the medium he uses: out of date film, old instant film, or even through chemically altering prints and emulsion.

This is the third time that I feature Cedric Arnold's work on this blog. Previous posts can be found here.