Baxter's Blog


Posted in Book Reviews, Gallery by misterroadtripper on September 3, 2010


At 424 pages and eight pounds, Lars Krutak’s Ancient and Modern Expressions of the Tribal—Kalinga Tattoo is yet another publishing triumph for Germany’s world-class publishing house Edition Reuss. Available from Amazon for $150, this extraordinary collection of Dr. Krutak’s unparalleled anthropological insights and mesmerizing photographs is, quite simply, a book that, if you do not own it, you are cheating yourself of infinite pleasure. The full-page, 9½- by 12½-inch photos of unparalleled tribal blackwork (page after page after page) are sequestered between beautifully embellished hard covers on thick, handsomely printed, glossy paper stock. Well worth the asking price.

I have worked with Lars Krutak and published his writings for over a decade and he is, arguably, the world of tattoo’s leading anthropologist, adventurer and advocate for the vanishing arts of indigenous cultures at the four corners of the globe. Kalinga, a landlocked province of the Philippines in the Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon, came to my attention when I first became involved with the tattoo world, over two decades ago. I marveled then at the photos of this beautiful people, with their mystical and profound connection to the timeless customs and application of, what is unquestionably, the highest form of body art. Written in both English and German, the chapter titles are as exciting and inspirational as the photos of the people—mostly older-generation men and women who proudly wear the marks of this intricate body art. “History of the Kalinga,” “Kalinga Tattooing Motifs,” “Warrior Culture of the Kalinga,” “The Last Kalinga Tattoo Artist” and “Mark of the Four Waves Tribe (The Philippine Tattoo Revival),” each chapter is a beautifully written, never ponderous, guided tour by Krutak himself, as he introduces and connects the reader with the colorful lifestyle and traditions of this powerful people. An added bonus, of course, are the double-page spreads of sweeping valleys, winding roads, terraced rice fields and cloud-capped mountain tops that, as you leaf through the pages, continually surprise you with reminders of where and how these unique people coexist with the nature around them.

© Andy Maluche

Mostly in full-color, the vast collection if images includes many rare, archival photos of Kalinga ceremonies, mock battles, tattoo sessions and, around every corner, those gorgeous photographs of daily life, a way of being that is practiced this very day and, hopefully, will continue to do so through the dedication and resurgence of new advocates such as the Four Waves Tribe—Kalinga children, who boldly proclaim their artistic heritage by practicing, rekindling and rescuing rich traditions that might, otherwise, be forgotten.

Besides the overwhelming beauty of the Edition Reuss volume, for the tattoo artist, this is a rich resource, a visual seminar on design and placement. For the collector, this is a haunting page-turner. For the history buff and anthropologist, this is a treasure trove of fascinating, accurate information by one of the most profound, dedicated and talented chroniclers of indigenous tribes in today’s changing world. Hooray for Dr. Krutak! Hooray for Edition Reuss! Your new book, all eight glorious pounds of it, has clearly made, for me, a most wonderful day.

—Bob Baxter


ISBN 978-3-934020-86-3/

Note: All tattoos and artwork featured are protected under the copyright of the tattooists. Their presentation is meant to inspire, not to be copied. The tattoos are created especially for the wearers and so should your own.

© Charles LeNoir

© Charles LeNoir

© Charles LeNoir

© Ivan Sarenas

© Charles LeNoir

© Lars Krutak

© Lars Krutak

Kalinga Woman

© Mark of the Four Waves Tribe

© Lars Krutak

© Lars Krutak

© Mark of the Four Waves Tribe

One Response

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  1. Matthias Reuss said, on September 4, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Your review is brilliant! I really respect reviews of writers who had a true deep look into the book, because, often, reviews remain just superficial. But yours is sooooooo excellent! Thanks!

    —Matthias Reuss
    Edition-Reuss, Aschaffenburg, Germany

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