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Manipur tattoo artist Mo Naga aims to concretize ‘The Tattoo Village’ 

IMPHAL: If the pandemic has put our lives on the second gear, it has also opened myriad ways to keep us moving forward.

Amid the COVID-induced sabbatical, ace tattoo artist from Manipur Moranngam Khaling,  popularly known as Mo Naga, has been busy in giving a concrete shape to his dream project- The tattoo village.

Mo Naga is an independent researcher and revivalist of traditional art and design culture of India with major focus on Naga tattoo. He is also one of the only three artists featured in ‘The World Atlas of Tattoo’ (Yale University Press), which chronicles the work of one hundred leading global tattooists. People from different parts of the World come to him to get tattooed with traditional and neo traditional art.

Due to the COVID induced restrictions, the renowned tattoo artist has put his clients on hold.

To make the best out of this break, he planned to work on his long pending plan of the tattoo village in Manipur.

In the words of the tattoo artist himself, the Tattoo Village is going to be a centre for tribal art and design culture. The centre is expected to have the first of its kind tattoo garden which will be endowed with different plants that are used in making tattoo pigments and implements. The plants will also be grown in the centre itself, informed Mo.

“I had been collecting these plants by travelling across Northeast before the restrictions. All these saplings are ready now. The wood has been kept aside for the construction of the furniture. I have moved closer to the site of the planned venture as it is in an interior place. I am making a cottage in connecting village. The architects are waiting to be a part of this project once the situation improves”, he added.

Mo Naga with ace Pugilist Mary Kom after the inking session in pre-COVID era

Talking about some challenges Mo informed that he has been facing some resistance from the religious church authorities in the state. “We are in talks and also negotiating with them. Soon we will start the physical structure of the village”.

The tattoo artist has been planning his homecoming since quite some time to build this centre in his village to practice his tattoo art amid a natural setting. He wants to build this space as according to him, this is where art, nature and culture would all come together. He would prefer to engage in his art of tattoo making somewhere close to nature rather than in a concrete jungle surrounded by walls.

Mo, who runs his tattoo studio ‘Godna Gram’ in Delhi, reached his native village in Manipur last year just before the nationwide lockdown was announced. During this period, Mo curated some interesting and useful ideas to spend this time away from his needle- Backyard farming and mask making as well. Talking about the importance of growing your own food, Mo said “This global crisis has taught us that how important it is to be self-sustained and self-sufficient. Hence, I believe that we all should learn to grow our own food at least on a basic level, so that we do not starve in a crisis situation like this , said a concerned Mo.

Mo Naga’s creations used on actress Regina Cassandra in Telugu movie ‘Awe’
Mo Naga’s creations used on actress Regina Cassandra in Telugu Psychological movie ‘Awe’

The lockdown period provided him with the opportunity to come closer to his less explored passion of farming which is a great option to practice social distancing and become more self-sufficient.

Since last year, Mo has put all his clients on hold. After taking this halt from his inking sessions, Mo also worked with some weavers and taught them to make face masks which were later supplied to people in need.

Further recalling his inking sessions he stated, “It has been a long time since time I tattooed. I really miss interacting with my clients, making the tattoos and travel…hosting people.”

Talking about his upcoming projects, Mo informed that his work will be executed in Berlin in the biggest cultural museum of Germany. Also, the tattoo artist will be announcing his next batch of students soon.

Without any doubt,  Mo Naga is a cultural ambassador for the North East and India as a whole in his own right. Apart from all the national and international coverage on print and electronic Medias, he has been conducting workshops and seminars to spread awareness about the significance of research and study of our culture and traditions. His art captures the true aesthetics of our culture and talks about its richness. He is often invited by universities and colleges across the country to speak about his work.

He continues to collaborate and exchange knowledge with world leading anthropologists and historians from Universities like Cambridge in London to individual researchers in India. He also guides students for their projects and to train young talents in the fields of tattooing and art and design.

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