EPISODE 12 – MEXICO
Written and directed by Jason Brennan
The ancient city of Palenque was once a hub of Mayan civilization. For centuries after its decline, it lay hidden under layers of tropical vegetation, until modern archaeologists peeled back the jungle to reveal it to the world in the last century. Today, Palenque is both an cultural centre and a sacred site. It was here that Indigenous artist Samuel Olman chose to set up his traditional Mayan tattoo practice. Living in the heart of the jungle near the ancient ruins, Samuel heads up the Olman Project, which aims to revive the art, knowledge and wisdom of Mesoamerican tattooing, while adapting it to the modern world.
In December of 2012, as a 5,000-year cycle of the Mayan calendar came to a close, Samuel Olman had a vision. It was a call to bring back the Indigenous tattooing practices that Spanish colonization in Mexico and Central America had all but wiped out of existence. Already a seasoned body piercer and tattooist at the time, Samuel began to research the lost techniques and motifs of his pre-Hispanic ancestors. At the ancient Mayan site of Palenque in the state of Chiapas, he established a tattoo practice that combines the traditional with the modern while staying true to the visual language of ancestral civilization. Since then, Samuel has been contributing to the on-going awakening of Indigenous Mexican culture, one needle poke at a time.