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PIA Press Release
2008/11/07

World-renowned researcher to write first book on Kalinga Batok

Baguio City (7 November) -- Lars Krutak, a world renowned archaeologist and cultural anthropologist will soon be writing the first book documenting the Kalinga Batok (tattoo) which he described as a "show of Kalinga artistic ability, cultural pride and status."

Starting the documentation of his latest book project during the "Batok Festival" held last October 31, 2008 at the Man-ugudan Hall of the Pastoral Center, Bulanao, Tabuk City, Kalinga, Krutak said that the book which would be entitled 'Voices of the Ancestors - the Living Tradition of Kalinga Batok' will give focus on the vanishing art of Kalinga traditional tattoo.

This he said aims to "capture the living and beautiful history of Batok in a beautifully illustrated book that is bi-lingual in Kalinga and in English."

The Voices of the Ancestors is a very important project. It will be the first book to tell of the Kalinga Batok, an incredibly rich tradition that is believed to be over 1000 years old, he underscored. The book would "preserve all this knowledge for the future Kalinga generation especially the youth of today" being the 'lifeblood of the Kalinga people'.

This tradition which shows the connection of tattoo ritual with nature, is one of the still unrecognized traditional art form indigenous to the people in the Cordillera, Krutak said as he expressed his appreciation for the Kalinga tattooed elders who came all the way from the upland communities to be a part of his research documentations.

He informed that a research team will be traveling to the other areas of Kalinga to enjoin all the living tattooed elders for interview and photo documentation "to incorporate their voices in the book" that would portray the Kalinga myths, legends and stories.

Talking on the significance of traditional tattoo as part of history, he relates that during his years of research on tribal tattoo, the complex symbolism and indigenous practices has been slowly vanishing. He said that 500 years ago there were at least 1000 ethno linguistic groups practicing tattooing around the world but now there are only 50 or less left.

"Because of this reality I focused my anthropological research for the past 12 years working with 20 indigenous communities around the world trying to document the vanishing art form of tattooing among the traditional people," he recounts.

He relates that in 2007, through NCIP Kalinga Director Natividad Sugguiyao, he began to work with the only living Kalinga tattooist Whang-od to document the rich Kalinga culture of tattooing. This work helped him produce the first one-hour documentary on Kalinga Tattoo for the Discovery Channel which will start airing in January 2009.

The publication of the "Voices of the Ancestors - the Living Tradition of Kalinga Batok" will add to the increasing work of Lars Krutak on traditional tattoo that includes his book 'Return of the Headhunters: The Philippine Tattoo Revival' published in 2005 that documented tattooing among the Bontoc Igorot, Kalinga, and Ifugao people.

As gathered from his web page, Krutak who was trained as an archeologist and cultural anthropologist started his tattoo research in 1996 as a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He is a Ph.D. candidate in Arizona State University's School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

In 2002, he pursued a full time work as a tattoo researcher travelling around the world to record the lives, stories, and experiences of tattooed people. He has worked as an Anthropological Consultant for three National Geographic television documentaries, and is the Technical Advisor for one of the world's largest and most popular tattoo website, www.vanishingtattoo.com.

In 2003, he was a co-recipient of the American Book Award in Literature. Lars has also appeared on these two National Geographic Channel television documentaries: Taboo - Body Art aired in 2004 and Tattoo - Under the Skin in 2005. (ggd/PIA Kalinga) [top]

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