Tom Vater

Tom Vater

Irreverent, informed and downright eclectic crime fiction and reportage from Southeast Asia and beyond

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Sacred Skin Reviewed by 60 Minutes Producer Danny Keens!!!

Sacred Skin receives a great review from Danny Keens, Producer of 60 Minutes, on Amazon. Wonderful!!!

When I stumbled upon this print collaboration between author Tom Vater and photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat I was taken completely by surprised and totally mesmerized. You see, I’m not the sort of person who would have considered a tattoo and actually the thought of getting one is far removed from my bucket list… until now.
You see this book – Sacred Skin – is an extraordinary exploration of Thailand’s spiritual tattoo’s called Sak Yant. It’s a tattoo culture that I quickly discover is totally removed from my own beliefs about the role the tattoo plays in popular culture.
The book explores an incredible world in which the concept of spiritualism and tattoo are completely entwined and you soon realize the idea of referencing one, without the other, is practically impossible whilst exploring Sak Yant.
It’s the first book of its kind that looks comprehensively at this really important aspect of Thai culture, revealing incredible insight into a world layered with depth and meaning well beyond what one might expect.
The book, full of text, colour and photographs, showcases stories about sacred, spiritual tattoos said to bestow protection from accidents, misfortunes and crime. Author Tom Vater explains that `Sak Yant’ is simply woven into the fabric of Thai society more so then anywhere else, and for the initiated, there is no separation of the body from the soul. He also goes on to explain there is also a strong connection between animals, mythology and religion;
“The Sak Yant devotees come in reverence and the monks and tattoo masters etch images of archaic sacred pillars and fearsome animals onto their skins. The Indian monkey god Hanuman makes an appearance, as do tigers, dragons, birds, snakes, lizards, hermits, and eels. Indian mythology, Buddhism, Brahmanism, animism and common superstitions make for a colorful hotchpotch of religious ideas embedded into the skin which may challenge the more formalized approach to the spiritual life and occasionally enrages Buddhist conservatives”
What makes this book all consuming is that the narrative is accompanied by the extraordinary photography of Aroon Thaewchatturat who does more than just capture the Sak Yant but demonstrates how the art can be a window into the soul of the wearer. The designs that are featured in the book speak a thousand words through Thaewchatturat’s award winning photography. This, coupled with Tom Vater’s energetic writing, means the book has astonishing creative flair for what is an inspiring, page turning journey.
But, just like the tattoo’s themselves, there is more to this incredible narrative than the images and written word. The book goes deep and serves as a definitive look at the Sak Yant and the men and women who make them come alive on their skin. This is done by taking you on a picture journey from tattoo inception, through the application process and finally the end result which is less a tattoo and more, as Vater explains, a vehicle to ward off fever, attract a partner and even help people emerge unscathed from misfortune. Someone even claims their tattoo protected them from gunfire;
“I was taking part in anti-government demonstrations, people around me got shot but the tattoo protected me”
It is also explained that the designs are inspired from religious mythologies and that priest like figures, with their own secret ink recipes, execute the tattoos.
The book consumes you with a hypnotic narrative that is easy to follow with its stunning photos and exuberant writing. The book `Sacred Skin – Thailand’s Spirit Tattoos’ will, no doubt, see more people engaging in the ancient art.
Finally, it must be said, that once I finished the book I was over come by a strange and unfamiliar desire to add something else to my bucket list. So, if you are clean skinned, like myself, may I suggest reading the book and discovering Sak Yant for yourself? You just never know where you will end up!

Read this review and more at Amazon!

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