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I met this woman, a member of the nomadic Penan tribe, on a trek through central Borneo, Indonesia. Her hands were intricately tattooed in her late teens. The painful and often dangerous procedure demonstrates that she is strong and capable of caring for her family.

Men undergo similar tattooing on their back, chest, arms and legs. Each tattoo represents an important event in the man's life. Traditionally, a successful head-hunting raid would warrant a new tattoo. Today, this practice has died out.

The Indonesian government and Western missionaries discourage tattooing because of the dangers of infection. In addition, indigenous peoples with tattoos face social ostracism if they conduct business with more-urbanized people. However, many social anthropologists note that the tattoos are an important cultural heritage that help tribes to maintain their self identity and pride. -- photographer, Raymond Paynter


Tattooed Hands (Borneo, Indonesia) by Raymond Paynter
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