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Human Animal, Human Canvas

Displaying community and commitment through body art
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In 1991, in a glacier pool in the Ötztal Alps between Italy and Austria, hikers found the frozen body of a murdered man. This was not a recent crime; his well-preserved remains had been mummified for some 5300 years. Clothes, weapons and implements were found with the Neolithic man but one particularly fascinating discovery was the presence of more than 60 tattoos on his skin.

Clinical investigation showed that the placement of the tattoos corresponded with the sites of arthritic joints, leading investigators to believe that the markings were evidence of medicinal tattooing. The collection of crosses and horizontal lines were primarily clustered around his spine, hips, knees and ankles. Yet one cluster across his chest didn’t seem to match the pattern, leaving anthropologists to speculate on its purpose.

Why do we do it?

In addition to therapeutic tattooing, body art has served many purposes throughout the history of most traditional cultures. Tattoos have been used to induct tribe members through rites of passage; identify community affiliation, status and position; or even as supernatural protection. Yet other evidence suggests that some of the earliest tattoos were for purely cosmetic purposes.

Whatever the reasons behind the tattoos, the outcome is universal: they are a permanent expression of something meaningful for the individual who dons them.

‘Human animal’ markings

If you look around an Animal Flow gathering, you will typically see at least one Flowist sporting body art. Tattoos are definitely not a requirement, they’re not even specifically encouraged, they just happen to be a frequent feature on the bodies of many community members. We’re incredibly humbled whenever someone shares that one of those tattoos is the proud representation of their connection to Animal Flow.

AF tattoos (L to R): Master Instructor, Kelie Su; Certified Instructor, Daniel Cui Chenjia; and Master Instructor, Evgenia Kabanova.

“I got my Animal Flow tattoo to celebrate one year of practice,” says Evgenia Kabanova, Master Instructor from Russia. “AF means so much to me. It allowed me to get back into shape after taking a long break due to sports injuries. It also inspired and motivated me to teach others, and that led to me becoming part of the AF team which is something I can still hardly believe! I got this tattoo because AF has changed my life and I want to keep it forever.”

We talked to Flowists around the world to find out the inspiration and meanings behind their Animal Flow tattoos.


Ready to join the community? Our Community Groups on Facebook are the perfect place to connect with likeminded Flowists. Join a Jam, find an instructor or sign up for a workshop in your region, and be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook.