Thursday, March 03, 2005

NYPL Image Archive Free and Online

Through the NYT, I find that the New York Public Library has made hundreds of thousands of images in its archival book collection freely available over the internet. I did a search for "India" and found this image, titled "Tattoo of the Sikhs at Fort Lister." These are Sikh soldiers stationed in Malawi in the late 19th century:


(Click on it to see the original context.)
QUESTION: Why the word "tattoo"? What does this image have to do with tattoos?

5 comments:

Rob said...

"tattoo" is also a word for military displays/marches, general public lording about in uniforms. the famous one on these shores is the annual "edinburgh military tattoo", which brings lots of tourists. although according to the official website it's actually a "tattoo experience"! right...

coolie said...

Nice find Amardeep. Sikhs went all over Africa with the British army. In East Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) there is a Swahili word for Sikhs....they are known as 'Kalasingha'. They made themselves known all over, not only with the army but when the Indians went over to build the railways around 1920's-1930's alot of them were tarkhan (Ramgharia) Sikhs. There is an amazing Gurdwara in the middle of the Kenyan bush in a place called Makindu that has an amazing story behind it. It started as a tin shack temple for the Indian workers when they were building the railways, Hindus and Muslims touching base at the Gurdwara too (all Punjabis). When the Sikhs got prosperous and moved to the cities as businessmen, merchants etc, it got neglected, and as the legend goes, one day a local Kenyan man had a vision of Guru Gobind Singh dismounting from his white horse and then entering the Gurdwara. Since then it has been a holy site and place of pilgramage for Sikhs and all South Asians of Kenya.

Anyway, nice find....you should keep an eye on e-bay there is always good stuff there on Sikh heritage, 19th Century prints of Golden Temple and that kind of thing, loads of intersting things like this for auction.

Kerim Friedman said...

According to the OED, the term Tattoo, as used in relation to body painting, comes as a generalization from the older meaning "To beat (a drum, etc.); to strike (something) with a succession of blows, to thump." and referred to the process by which tattoos were made.

Dafina Girl said...

Ditto what everyone else says - "tattoo" as in beating a tattoo, punching out some kind of musical rhythm. Love reading your blog...

ME-L said...

You can see Hervé Villechaize right there in the background.