For thousands of years, Inuit people have marked themselves with tattoos. While designs and meanings vary, tattoos remain a vital part of the culture.
But a century ago, the tradition was nearly lost when missionaries came to Inuit communities and began colonizing. Now, artist Marjorie Tahbone is intent on reawakening this ancient art using the traditional techniques of her native people.
Traditionally, the tattoos also have a dualistic spirituality. Some believe that a woman who receives a tattoo would have a better afterlife as a result of enduring such horrific pain.
Without a tattoo, a woman would be too “weak” and remain “underneath,” keeping herself from the luxuries of the afterlife.