“Diversity of cultures is the differences that exist between factors around the world. There are traditions and cultures that have survived for thousand of years and now, in just one generation everything can disappear. I feel lucky to be one of the people that can still see and experience these diversity. The diversity that leads me to travel to the most neglected Asiatic countryside areas and capture people’s traditions and culture before these disappear. In recent years I have focused my research on their varieties, locations, habits and especially on their visible distinguishing features, which they express through body tattoo and body modifications.”

– Mattia Passarini

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Ramnami (India) The chef of Ramnami people in Chhattisgarh, India. Ramnami tattoo the name of the lord “Ram” on their body. Their entire focus is on the name of Ram, the name of God that is most dear to them. The Ramnami Samaj is a sect of Harijan (Untouchable) Ram. Formed in the 1890s, the sect has become a dominant force in the religious life of the area. The tattoo is the result of their devotion and also, a gift and an acknowledgement from Ram.

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Ramnami (India) Ramnami tattoo the name of the lord “Ram” on their body. Their entire focus is on the name of Ram, the name of God that is most dear to them. The Ramnami Samaj is a sect of Harijan (Untouchable) Ram. Formed in the 1890s, the sect has become a dominant force in the religious life of the area. The tattoo is the result of their devotion and also, a gift and an acknowledgement from Ram.

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Konya tribe (India) The Konyak are a Naga people, and are recognised among other Naga by their tattoos, which they have all over their face and hands; facial tattoos were earned for taking an enemy’s head. In the recent past, they were known as war loving and often attacked nearby villages of other tribes taking the heads of opposing warriors as trophies to hang in the Morong (a communal house). The number of heads indicated the power of a warrior and the tribe and becomes a collective totem.

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Chin tribe (Myanmar) Chin tribe in western part of Myanmar History tell that women started to tattoo their face in order to be no attractive avoiding to be kidnapped by the Burmese king Alaungh Pay in 18th century and from the follow kings. Now this practice is banned by the government.

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Atayal Tribe (Taiwan) Are one tribe of Taiwanese aborigines, The meaning of Atayal is “genuine person” or “brave man.” Taiwanese aborigines are Austronesian peoples, with linguistic and genetic ties to other. To earn his facial tattoo, a man had to bring back at least one human head; these heads, or skulls, were highly honored, given food and drink, and expected to bring good harvests to the fields. They were known to be fierce fighters as observed in the case of the Wushe Incident in which the Atayal fought the Japanese. Only those with tattoos could marry, and after death, only those with tattoos could cross the utux hongu, or spirit bridge (the rainbow) to the hereafter. The facial tattoo, in Squliq Tayal, is ‘ptasan.’ During the invasion of the Japanese the tribe was oblige to stop their facial tattoo otherwise people will be kill. Now just this old women with facial tattoo still alive.

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Kutia Khonds tribe (India) Khonds are an ethnic group of India, in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal. Traditionally hunter-gatherers, their main divisions are the Kutia. The facial tattoo originally was a kind of group identification, but by the time this practice was seen more as a decoration and was correspondingly adopted as a symbol of beauty.

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Kutia Khonds tribe (India) Khonds are an ethnic group of India, in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal. Traditionally hunter-gatherers, their main divisions are the Kutia, or hill Khonds and plain-dwelling Khonds; the landowners among them are known as Raj Khonds. The facial tattoo originally was a kind of group identification, but by the time this practice was seen more as a decoration and was correspondingly adopted as a symbol of beauty. Now just few women left with the facial tattoo.

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Delong ethnic (China) They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People’s Republic of China. Although some Dulong have converted to Christianity, the vast majority continue to believe in their animist native religion. In the past, Dulong girls had their faces tattooed at their early age. The tattoo represent beautiful butterflies, because the souls of the deceased were said to turn into butterflies. The tattooists used bamboo needles to make indelible butterfly patterns on the girls faces. The origins of facial tattoos among the Dulong people are unclear. Some claim they were a reaction to assaults by a powerful neighboring tribe who enslaved the Dulong and abducted the women. The women were tattooed to make them unattractive to marauders, another theory is that facial tattoos helped to identify Dulong tribe members and ward off evil spirits.

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Konya tribe (India) The Konyak are a Naga people, and are recognised among other Naga by their tattoos, which they have all over their face and hands; facial tattoos were earned for taking an enemy’s head. In the recent past, they were known as war loving and often attacked nearby villages of other tribes taking the heads of opposing warriors as trophies to hang in the Morong (a communal house). The number of heads indicated the power of a warrior and the tribe and becomes a collective totem.

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Kutia Khonds tribe (India) Khonds are an ethnic group of India, in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal. Traditionally hunter-gatherers, their main divisions are the Kutia, or hill Khonds and plain-dwelling Khonds; the landowners among them are known as Raj Khonds. The facial tattoo originally was a kind of group identification, but by the time this practice was seen more as a decoration and was correspondingly adopted as a symbol of beauty. Now just few women left with the facial tattoo.

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Baga tribe (India) The term Baiga means a priest. Many of them are village priest and medicine people, living in the forest hill. Traditionally the baigas do not cut their hair, and the women knot their bun on one side, not in the center.

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Doling ethnic (China) They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People’s Republic of China. Although some Dulong have converted to Christianity, the vast majority continue to believe in their animist native religion. In the past, Dulong girls had their faces tattooed at their early age. The tattoo represent beautiful butterflies, because the souls of the deceased were said to turn into butterflies. The tattooists used bamboo needles to make indelible butterfly patterns on the girls faces. The origins of facial tattoos among the Dulong people are unclear. Some claim they were a reaction to assaults by a powerful neighboring tribe who enslaved the Dulong and abducted the women. The women were tattooed to make them unattractive to marauders, another theory is that facial tattoos helped to identify Dulong tribe members and ward off evil spirits.

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Apatani tribe (India) The Apatani, are a tribal group of people living in the Ziro valley in the district of Arunachal Pradesh. Tattooing and the stuffing of large nose plugs were once popular among the women, although this practice has gradually fallen into decline in recent years. Apatani female tattoos themselves from their forehead to tip of the nose. They also tattoo their chin with five vertical lines and at the top near lower lip a horizontal bar joins all the five lines of vertical vertical tattoo of the chin. Beside the tattoo they also have two big nose plug on either side of the nose known as Yaping Hullo. These Yaping Hullo are made of pieces of whole Cane. People claim that tattooing was a reaction to assaults by a powerful neighboring tribe who abducted the women.

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Li ethnic (China) The Li are an ethnic group of mainland China on Hainan Island. The Li are believed to be descendants of the ancient Yue tribes of China and Vietnam, who settled on the island thousands of years ago. Women began tattooing hundreds of years ago, as a symbol of belonging to a social group within the community. Than over the years the tattoo became a symbol of beauty, the women tattooed at a young age to be more attractive and have more opportunity to find a healthy husband.

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Ramnami (India) Ramnami tattoo the name of the lord “Ram” on their body. Their entire focus is on the name of Ram, the name of God that is most dear to them. The Ramnami Samaj is a sect of Harijan (Untouchable) Ram. Formed in the 1890s, the sect has become a dominant force in the religious life of the area. The tattoo is the result of their devotion and also, a gift and an acknowledgement from Ram.

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Ramnami (India) Ramnami tattoo the name of the lord “Ram” on their body. Their entire focus is on the name of Ram, the name of God that is most dear to them. The Ramnami Samaj is a sect of Harijan (Untouchable) Ram. Formed in the 1890s, the sect has become a dominant force in the religious life of the area. The tattoo is the result of their devotion and also, a gift and an acknowledgement from Ram.

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Apatani tribe (India) The Apatani, are a tribal group of people living in the Ziro valley in the district of Arunachal Pradesh. Tattooing and the stuffing of large nose plugs were once popular among the women, although this practice has gradually fallen into decline in recent years. Apatani female tattoos themselves from their forehead to tip of the nose. They also tattoo their chin with five vertical lines and at the top near lower lip a horizontal bar joins all the five lines of vertical vertical tattoo of the chin. Beside the tattoo they also have two big nose plug on either side of the nose known as Yaping Hullo. These Yaping Hullo are made of pieces of whole Cane. People claim that tattooing was a reaction to assaults by a powerful neighboring tribe who abducted the women.

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Lawae tribe (Laos) The Lawae (or Lavae, Brao or Brow) come from the Mon-Kmer language tradition. Traditionally, the women have worn earring plugs made from elephant tusks, with the size determining social status, and have cut the middle of their front teeth and had their faces tattooed for beauty.

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Ramnami (India) Ramnami tattoo the name of the lord “Ram” on their body. Their entire focus is on the name of Ram, the name of God that is most dear to them. The Ramnami Samaj is a sect of Harijan (Untouchable) Ram. Formed in the 1890s, the sect has become a dominant force in the religious life of the area. The tattoo is the result of their devotion and also, a gift and an acknowledgement from Ram.

All photographs © Mattia Passarini