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Algeria ink

Book chronicles meaning behind mountain women’s face tattoos

By WITW Staff on November 15, 2015

Long before the reality show Miami Ink and its family of spin-offs made a splash on pop culture by demystifying tattoo culture, the Berber women who populate Algeria’s Aurès Mountains had developed a unique culture of inking their flesh. According to the Berber women’s beliefs, the tattoos were used to heal any number of maladies and even as an antidote for infertility. The women decorated their faces and bodies with various types of symbols.

But in the 1930s and 1940s, the practice went into sharp decline, a shift attributed to the growing influence of Islam, which forbids tattooing the flesh. Over the decades, the practice has continued to decline to the point where very few Berber women still take part in the tradition and those women who have tattoos are are the elder women from previous generations.

Interestingly, the symbols that were tattooed on them carry meanings, but those meanings are in jeopardy of being lost forever as the practice dies out. Which is precisely why author Lucienne Brousse compiled a book chronicling illustrations and meanings of all those symbols seen tattooed on the faces and bodies of women. Feminine Beauty and Identity: Female Berber Tattoos of the Regions of Biskra and Touggourt was released earlier this year, and, according to Brousse is a “modest study, neither exhaustive, historic nor comparative.” Among the many symbols contained in the book are drawings of and meanings behind “the partridge’s eye” and “the palm leaf.”

Above, see some photos of Berber women and their unique tattoos.

Read the full story at The Huffington Post.