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Tattoos: Think Before You Ink!

Tattoos are a huge part for different cultures all over the world and have become a part of self-expression and identity for many people over the years. But most people are not at all aware of the meaning of their tattoos. Do most even take into consideration that they might be culturally appropriating a culture by getting certain designs just because they look good on skin? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, cultural appropriation is defined as “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the practices, customs, or aesthetics of one social or ethnic group by members of another (typically dominant) community or society,” and this can apply with tattoos. If you do not consider the meaning behind your tattoo, these tattoos can potentially fall under being culturally appropriated. Some tattoo decisions are made in a spur of a moment. Not all tattoos are the same as some have deep rooted cultural meanings behind the designs and hold significant meaning to a particular culture. Here are a few examples:


There are many different types of tribal arts that have been used as example of tattoo designs by aspiring enthusiasts over the years. Certain examples include are Celtic, Mayan, Aztec deities, and Samoan and Māori art. Unless one has a significant and personal connection to these cultures, these tattoos can be seen as cultural appropriation as most of the symbols used in the designs is rooted with specific examples of spirituality which has a huge significance in making it a traditional practice.

Dream Catchers

Dream Catchers are a popular choice of design, but many do not realize that they hold an important significance in Native American and First Nation cultures and traditions. Its purpose is used as protection and as armor for infants and children of the said indigenous communities and is often placed around their cradles for positive energy.

  Sugar Skulls

Sugar Skull tattoos are intricate designs that are part of the celebration of Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. As its meaning is deeply rooted with Mexican culture where they honour those greatly who have passed on, these beautiful designs are sometimes appropriated by people who are not part of that culture.

While the consensus of this design is not seen as an example of cultural appropriation, certain aspects of it still falls under the umbrella of the Chinese culture being disrespected. In many cases, characters are often mistranslated by people who get them tattooed and this mistake is seen to be disrespectful.

It is always important for all of us to make an informed decision when we choose to get inked. When one decides to get a tattoo, one must make sure to get proper research and information about the design one wants to get. As information is readily available over the internet, there should be little to no excuse to get a tattoo that is culturally appropriated. Ignorance is not a justification to be excused for this kind of behaviour. So, when one decides to get a tattoo, just get educated about it. It is that simple.


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