Non-Headhunters with Headhunter tattoos

Keone Nunes, a traditional tattoo artist from Hawaii, sent in a letter to about his trip to visit Whang Od in the Kalinga province. Whang Od is the last Kalinga tattoo artist who was recently featured in the GMA special below.

They asked her a very interesting question:

We asked what she thought of the trend of Filipino-American men putting on traditional Kalinga chest tattoos. She was not happy. She said that, if they did not take a head or participate in a head hunt but adorned themselves with these chest tattoos, they would either die before their time or go crazy.

What do you think? I’ve heard people give the reasoning that I’m a “Modern headhunter”, I hunt heads for knowledge, I work as a recruiter so I do hunt heads or I’m a rapper and I hunt heads of wack MCs. I guess you can spin it in a modern context but it’s a gray area. I do think that we need to keep our indigenous traditions from disappearing but how do we do so without either offending? Do we wait for the real headhunters to die out? Nobody takes heads anymore, so should the art of chest tattoos be limited to sketches or does the meaning need to be adapted to modern society?

read the rest of the letter

View the rest of the videos

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