Much ado about tattoos

Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi - file pic

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Dec 5: In the aftermath of the recent Tattoo Malaysia Expo 2019 controversy, many leaders have stood up in criticism of the semi-nude portion of the expo.

In a parliamentary debate today, Arau MP Dato Sri Shahidan Kassim brought up the issue of the three-day tattoo expo which was penalised by Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.

Sentiments came from both sides of the political divide, with Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii attempting to defend the spirit of the tattoo expo, if not its execution.

“I am not in any way upholding public indecency and nudity. However, I believe a certain tradition and culture which stimulates creativity should be promoted.


“For example, tattoo is a huge part of tradition and culture of Dayaks and Orang Asal of Sarawak and Sabah.

“This should be promoted within the realm of decency and should not be put in a negative light,” said Dr Yii when contacted.

Meanwhile, Kapit MP Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi took a stand against parallels drawn between the Iban tattoo tradition which goes back generations and today’s modern tattoos.

“I don’t want our culture of tattoo to be misunderstood or to be linked with nudity or semi-nudity,” said Nanta, explaining that there seemed to be a misunderstanding on Iban traditional tattoo culture.

Nanta stressed that in the Iban tradition, tattoos mean something much deeper than just for aesthetic purposes as there is a reason behind every tattoo.

“Traditionally, for the women, if they are outstanding weavers of pua kumbu or basketry, then they are entitled to have tattoos on their hands to signify that they are very outstanding in these skills.

“The tattoos on their hands mean that they should be highly respected and the motifs of the tattoos are very simple lines,” Nanta told DayakDaily.

“For the Ibans, only those who have hunted human heads can wear tattoos on their fingers. But there is no such meaning for modern tattoo culture,” he explained.

An investigation was ordered into the tattoo expo which was held in Kuala Lumpur from November 29 until December 1, after pictures of semi-naked men and women parading their tattoos were circulated on social media. —DayakDaily