Deq: The tattooist preserving the ink of a disappearing culture | Arts and Culture

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Diyarbakır, Turkey – When she was 20 years old, Fatete Temel grabbed a surgical needle, balanced her index finger and thumb, and dipped the tip in a mixture of black lamp and breast milk.

She lifted the needle to her face. Turning to the mirror hanging on the wall in her family’s home in Derik village, Mardin province, southeastern Turkey, she began poking the skin on her chin. This is her first time getting a deq – a traditional tattoo that was once popular among Kurds.

That was in 2018. Temel, now 24, has since attracted hundreds of customers with deq motifs and symbols from the small one-room studio she opened in November 2021 in the Sur district in the Old City. of Diyarbakır, considered the historical center of Kurdish culture.

She is one of the only artists left in Turkey to preserve this ancient tattoo culture.

A photograph of Fatete Temel with the iconic deq motif she carved on her chin representing the sun and her whole life pursuit of the accumulation of wisdom and knowledge through traditions and cultures. of their community.
Fatete Temel is one of the only artists in Turkey to preserve the ancient art of deq, including the traditional use of ink in the process. The iconic deq motif she carved on her chin symbolizes the sun and her whole life pursuing the accumulation of wisdom and knowledge through the traditions and culture of her community. [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

“Every tattoo has a meaning,” says Temel. She poked a spoon into a box of frozen breast milk she got from friends who had just had a baby, scraped it out and hastily mixed it into a jar of black pepper – preparing a traditional ink concoction for her customers. .

She added: “For the Kurds, we have our own special meanings and connections with all these symbols and motifs – the things that connect us to a forgotten past. . “For me, Deq represents another facet of our disappearing culture. And it’s my duty to make sure this tradition is preserved.”

Deq was once very popular with the Kurds, along with the Turkmen, Arabs, and Dom – commonly known as “gypsies” – who all lived side by side as neighbors in the eastern region.

Similar tattoos can be Find among the Amazigh women of North Africa. And it’s not hard to find older women and some men in Kurdish and Arab villages in eastern Turkey with deq tattoos still on their skin.

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