Exhibition: “Sak Yan – The Magic of Thai Tattoo” | Poland

Sak Yan

The Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw, Poland, an ASEMUS member, currently presents an exhibition entitled ‘Sak Yan – The Magic of Thai Tattoo’, which can be seen until 11 January 2015.

The exhibition features the work of photographer Matthieu Duquenois. Since 2006, Matthieu has studied the phenomenon of Thai tattoo, not only as a scholar but also as a practitioner.

The tradition of tattooing in South-East Asia is one of the oldest in the world, dating back to the 3rd millennium BCE. In Thailand, the memory of this ancestral tradition has not been lost and continues to be transmitted from generation to generation. Called Sak Yan (Thai = sak “to tap” or “to stab”; yan, yant, yantra “sacred design”) it is a part of the syncretic religion of the Thai people and is derived from ancient animistic beliefs, Brahmanism, and Buddhism.

Tattoo masters (ajarns) guard the continuity of these sacrosanct traditions. In the retreat of their private sanctuaries (samnak or samnak sak), they decorate their apprentices (luksit) and devoted followers with magical patterns (yantras or yan) applied with large, needle-like tattoo implements.

Sak Yant evades modern perception of the tattoo. For devotees it is a response to everyday problems with which they turn to their masters. Mystical animals and deities appearing on skin, encircled with mantra or sacred katha spells, are like talismans that secure power, bravery, enhance success in love, and offer protection. These potent symbols are embodied with powerful magic (sayasart) that penetrates the human body and transforms the life of the recipient. However every devote must obey certain rules and religious precepts determined by the master. If not, the permanent tattoos they create will lose their power to become simple drawings on skin.

Matthieu Duquenois has been tattooed by more than 25 Sak Yan masters. He is the second European to be honored with the title of arjan, or master of Thai tattoo. He received this blessing from Phra Ajarn Man and the late Ajarn Thong, to whom this exhibition is dedicated. Through Duquenois’ powerful photographic portraits the exhibition uncovers a spiritual world of mystical beliefs and rituals through the sacred iconography of Sak Yan. Tattoo accessories from the Museum’s collection are also showcased.

For further details, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/715000035241135/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Picture above by Matthieu Duquenois

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