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Story Publication logo August 17, 2012

Algeria: Tattoos Inspire Songwriter

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Sepia-tinted photos of over 50 years ago show the facial tattoos of women from indigenous...

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Although she is 90 years old, Arjona still remembers the culture surrounding the tattooing tradition well, including songs from the early 1900s. Image by Yasmin Bendaas. Algeria, 2012.

The culture surrounding the tattooing tradition among the Chaouia extended beyond marking the body--and into songs. Songs and tattoos often went hand in hand. The famous "Ain El Karma" by Chaoui singer Aissa Djarmouni demonstrates how tattoos were at one time so much a part of Algerian popular culture that they inspired songwriters.

In this video, one elderly tattooed woman named Arjona sings her own rendition of "Ain El Karma," a song that dates to the early 1900s.

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