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A 106-year-old Indigenous tattoo artist just became Vogue's oldest-ever cover star, unseating Judi Dench

A 106-year-old Indigenous tattoo artist just became Vogue's oldest-ever cover star, unseating Judi Dench
  • Vogue Philippine's April cover features Apo Whang-Od, a 106-year-old Indigenous tattoo artist.

  • Whang-Od is Vogue's oldest-ever cover star, unseating Judi Dench who was featured at 85.

  • She's credited for keeping "batok," a 1,000-year-old Filipino art form, alive.

Vogue Philippines's April issue features Apo Whang-Od, an Indigenous tattoo artist from Buscalan, a remote village in the mountainous area of the Kalinga province situated in the northern Philippines.

Whang-Od, who turned 106 in February, unseats Judi Dench as the oldest-ever Vogue cover star. Dench was featured on British Vogue's June 2020 at 85.

The centenarian has been hand-tapping tattoos since she was 16. She began under her father's mentorship, carrying on the Philippines's thousand-year-old practice of "batok," according to Vogue.

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Batok is a traditional tattooing art form that was used as a status symbol for the headhunters of Kalinga in its early days.

But Whang-Od, one of the last traditional Kalinga tattooists, has tattooed more women than warriors, per Vogue.

While men were tattooed for bravery then, women were marked mainly for fertility and beautification.

Yet as Western-centric beauty standards started to make their way into the culture, fewer girls and women seeked to delve and pass down the tradition of batok, and people in the practice dwindled by the day.

In the recent 15 years or so, however, tourists from all around the world started flocking to Buscalan, coveting Whang-Od's, who is also known as Maria Oggay, traditional ink on their skins.

The decision to feature Whang-Od on the cover was unanimous, said Vogue Philippines editor-in-chief Bea Valdes to CNN.

"We believe that the concept of beauty needs to evolve, and include diverse and inclusive faces and forms. What we hope to speak about is the beauty of humanity," Valdes said, per CNN.

As the skill of batok can only be passed down a bloodline, Whang-Od has been training her grandnieces to keep the tradition alive.

"When visitors come from far away, I will give them the mark of Buscalan, the mark of Kalinga for as long as my eyes can see," Whang-Od told Vogue.

 

Read the original article on Insider