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Meet Europe’s only Sak Yant tattoo artist
More than 400 tattooists gathered at the World Tattoo Fair that took place from 15 to 17 February in the Grande Halle de La Villette near Paris. Among them, traditional Sak Yant tattooists who were invited to the convention to present their ancestral art.
The Sak Yant tattoo is one of the oldest traditional tattoo arts in the world, dating back more than 2,000 years.
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It has developed as part of Thai culture as a way to provide protection of body and soul.
It also brings good luck using traditional mysticism and the Buddhist influences.
Sak means "to tap" or "to tattoo", and Yant for "Yantra", or sacred geometrical designs, tattooed on individuals.
Yantras are usually tattooed on their bodies by Buddhist monks, but also by initiates like French-born Matthieu Duquenois.
Matthieu Duquenois is an Ajarn, which means master, and has lived in Thailand since 2009 where he studied the sacred art of Sak Yant with several different masters.
"You never stop learning", he told RFI. "I started five years ago and I still have a lot to learn. Just for the technique, you need at least three or four years before feeling comfortable with the needle."
"I never got tattoed before or even tattoed anybody before I studied this kind of tattoing. I was looking for something that had a real meaning. A meaning that would last all my life. That’s the most important.", he added.
The purpose of getting a Sak Yant tattoo is not aesthetic, but spiritual.
"What we do is not artistic at all. Of course we try to make the most beautiful tattoo we can, but the designs are just transmitted from master to student. The important [thing] for us is the magic we put into the tattoo and then, of course, if it’s beautiful it’s a plus", says Matthieu Duquenois.
Ajarn Matthieu Duquenois is the only tattooist to practice Sak Yant in Europe. He travels three or four times a year to attend tattoo conventions like the one in Paris.