The Kapwa (Self in the Other) Collective, a group of Filipino Canadian artists, critical thinkers and healers who work across different academic and applied disciplines, brings to Toronto narratives of tattooing journeys. The event titled BATOK-Kalinga Tattoo (Markers of Identity: From Indigenous to Diasporic Storytelling) brings together the multimedia arts of Kristina Guison and Jo SiMalaya Alcampo, the photography of Ruel Bimuyag, and a talk by anthropologist Analyn Salvador Amores (University of the Philippines-Baguio). Guison gives Fab
a peek of the sensuality, sexuality, and identity that lurks behind the ink.
Brian Bantugan: How is sensuality expressed in the tattoos featured in the exhibit?
: Based from my experience in getting tattoos from traditional Kalinga tattoo artist, Apo Fang-od, I surmise that "sensuality" was expressed in the process. The particular kind of sensation, what we can consider as "painful" was somehow mingled with a certain amount of pleasure. A prolonged process as intrusive on the body as tattooing, with the utmost consent of the person receiving the tattoo, demands complete trust to the person who is giving it. There were moments where it was impossible to distinguish between the pleasure and painful sensation. They were both mixed together. The fact that it was multi-sensory heightened the experience even more because there was the element of sound (coming from her tapping tools), sight (the image of her in full concentration and the contact between the thorn and the skin), smell (the distinct scent of the mountains) and touch (the rapid succession of tiny holes being lightly punctured on the skin).
How is sensuality experienced by the person giving the tattoo?
There's an interplay of power and trust involved in the process. I find that I appreciate it when they admit they recognize the "pleasure" aspect of the experience mixed with the discomfort of pain. As if the process was something not to be tolerated but rather enjoyed.
Do you think people use their tattoos to mirror their sexual identity?
Yes, I think they do. Tattoos reflect so much a person’s individual and collective identity.
Could you tell us something about your piece titled “Sound Marks?"
My piece called "Sound Marks," is greatly inspired by the Kalinga tattooing culture. It depicts the transient, multi-sensory experience of the process and pays respect to its old tradition that has managed to survive time and socio-political conflicts. It is about old wisdom translated and printed on new pages. Permanent markings on temporary surfaces.
BATOK-Kalinga Tattoo opens on Sat, November 3 at 6-9pm at the 519 Church Street Community Centre, 519 Church St. No cover, donations welcome. kapwacollective.tumblr.com/events, kristinaguison.com.
photos by Kristina Guison