Doing an image search for tribal Borneo and Modang Tribe designs will show you little authentic tribal designs. Marc specializes in these rare design that not many tattoo artist know or can do. He learnt a lot of these from travelling in the field in Borneo. Each type of design has a meaning and a purpose in the Dayak culture.

What Do These Tattoos Signify?

Generally, Modang and Borneo tribe tattoos, in general, signify a particular social standing within the tribe or sub-tribe or they may represent religious figures. So, a member of the tribe with a higher social status will have more intricately designed tattoos in addition to jewelry and clothing.

The tattoos within a subtribe are mostly the same, with little variety. Most of the tattoos today are done using a needle, but in the old days they were done using various types of thorns taken from local trees. However, even today, many tribal artists rely on ash for ink.

Identification Tattoos

Tribal Borneo tattoos are also used to identify individuals, especially those with knowledge of medicine, or people experienced navigating certain parts of the jungle. Tribal tattoos are also used as a badge of honor for those who have been victorious in war.

In some Eastern Borneo tribes, the more tattoos a person has the more traveling they have done which means that they have been to many more villages. Some Dayak chiefs also have hornbill designed tattoos, while others may have tattoos protective figures of the underworld.

Tribal Tattoo Placement

The placement of the tattoos is seen as being just as important as the tattoos themselves. Headhunters and warriors will have tattoos on the right shoulder, while some tribes will have them on the left arm. However, these tattoos aren’t as common these days mainly because the practice of headhunting is outdated.

Women of high social status will often wear a tattoo on their upper thigh along with some type of bangle jewelry around the ankle. However, women in Borneo and even the Modang tribe often have limited tattoo options. Sometimes they may have nothing but the face of a tiger on an arm or a couple of lines on a finger. Though these tattoos will rarely designate their specialty, i.e. as teachers or hunters.

Common tattoos may include tribal designs with geometric patterns, which may be near or in some cases circling a motif. Marc Pinto specializes in tribal designs and offers a selection of designs from which clients can pick and choose. He also offers advice on the placement and meaning of each symbol or style of tattooing.


*(Tattoo shown above done by Primitive’s artist Travis)

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