Cedric Arnold, Sacred Ink
A body, used as a canvas, every inch of skin filled with sacred text and figures of mythical creatures, all forming a protective shield. A boxer, a monk, a construction worker, a police man, a soldier, a taxi driver, a shipyard worker, a shaman, a tattoo master; men, women and their inked protection from evil spirits and bad luck. Enter the world of Thailand’s spiritual “yantra” tattoo tradition. Known in Thai as “sak yant”, the tattoos are a testament to the complex spiritual makeup of Thai society, incorporating elements of Buddhism, Animism, Brahmanism and Hinduism.
Having lived in SE Asia for many years, photographer Cedric Arnold was always intrigued by beliefs in magic in the region. The first portrait session for Sacred Ink happened by chance when, on assignment, Cedric met a shipyard worker, tattooed from head to toe with script and magic spells; he arranged to return the following week. The man later introduced him to two tattoo masters who eventually allowed him to witness and photograph countless ceremonies and tattooing sessions. Cedric then traveled throughout Thailand to photograph men from all walks of life and all ages, proudly showing the inked protection on their bodies.
Sacred Ink is on view at The Brunei Gallery of the School of Oriental and African Studies @ The University of London, opening October 18, on view through December 15. To see more from the series, visit cedricarnold.com.