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A slice of history on the skin

- NIFT tattoo artist inspired by headhunting tradition

Dec. 4: Tales of headhunting may give us goose bumps but for Moranngam Khaling, it has come to mean something else on the skin. A work of art.

An alumnus of the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Hyderabad, Khaling has researched headhunting, which existed among certain indigenous communities in Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh to develop his tattoo designs and take them across to the urban enthusiasts.

Khaling, also known as Mo Naga, inaugurated his studio-cum-tattoo school in the city today with the message that “the tattoo art, which had been in the Northeast from time immemorial, should be popularised”. So enamoured was he with and inspired by headhunting that he has christened his studio Headhunters’ Ink.

Khaling, who hails from Manipur and introduces himself as a “self-taught tattoo artist”, already has a tattoo studio, Mo Tatoo, in New Delhi.

“The tattoo tradition of the Northeast is very old. The tattoos inspired from headhunting were among the most popular. But, for some reason they are on the verge of extinction. I want to promote it and make it popular across the world,” said Khaling.

Facial tattoos, V-shaped tattoos on the chest and vertical stripes on the calf of women (to signify their maturity) are found in the Northeast, Khaling said.

Khaling said having or getting a tattoo is the most overwhelming experience where art, fashion and design come together in the most meaningful ways for an individual.

The region’s prominent folk musician, Guru Rewben Mashangva, posed on the ramp today to support the Naga headhunter tattoo art drawn on him by Khaling and his colleagues. “Sometime, may be 100 years ago, this art form used by our forefathers vanished. Today, some youths are coming forward to popularise it. I support them. We need to translate our culture into money,” said Mashangva.

Khaling said, “The tattoo industry is booming in India. Northeast should also be a part of this welcome change. The people here are gifted with talents. They have the exact skills and the right attitude. We just wish to help them transform into real professionals with our vast experience in design and art, and our thorough understanding of the industry.”

Khaling said many people from across the globe have appreciated his tattoos.

He hoped that with his venture in Guwahati, he would provide safe, hygienic and international standard tattoo experience to the residents and the people of the region. “We would promote the traditional tattooing art of the indigenous communities of the Northeast to make the region a force to reckon with in the world of tattoo art,” Khaling said.