Through Cultural Journey, Sardono W Kusumo sees knowledge from the habits of indigenous people who live and blend with nature. For example, when he was in the jungle of Borneo, bees were very sensitive to body odor, so it needed the smell of burning plants to camouflage it. Or when he lived with the Asmat tribe in Papua with the habit of roaring like a wolf in the middle of his sleep to avoid attacks by wild animals. How humans are mimicry of nature, including the Mentawai tribe’s habit of tattooing.
This work is based on strengthening awareness of cultural diversity and ecosystem diversity in Indonesia as well as the possibility of intermediation built on observation and research on cultural design. The approach to cultural design which is carried out through the practice of creativity in collaborative work by Sardono W Kusumo with the Mentawai indigenous people is not about personal expression, but a reflection on cultural memory, social memory, body memory, and nature which is impregnated—how to see the cultural aspects of this small island as a whole.
In the context of Mentawai, many traditions passed down from their ancestors are still held by the people. One of them is a tattoo. The Mentawai tribe considers tattoos as a part of a cultural heritage that has aesthetic value and symbolic meaning for its users, as well as something sacred and functions as a symbol of the natural balance.
Tattoo art in the Mentawai Tribe of West Sumatra is known as the oldest tattoo in the world. Even so, many young Mentawai people are starting to abandon this tattoo tradition. The oldest tattoo motif is in the form of simple lines and is attached to those who are considered to have expertise related to medicine or what is known as sikerei.
Sikerei heals using an ethnobotanical tradition, a plant utilization activity that has been carried out and maintained for generations since ancient times in the time of their ancestors. This tradition was created from a combination of the social culture of the community and the diversity of plants in the Mentawai area.
Through the aspects of eco phenomenology above, this works that is based on art and environment has an orientation towards restoring and/or caring for nature. In today's life, on a global scale of science, art is starting to realize how important it is to fight against the flow of natural damage due to exploitation so that awareness about tattoo art can stimulate empathy for the beauty of flora and fauna, especially tattoo as fine arts that uses the body as its main medium.
This visual symptom which is now called tattoo art appeared around 3000 BC. In its current development, tattoo on human is a form of body modification and an identity marker to show the existence of both individual and group. The timeline of the development of tattoo art, from the technique of making it to its meaning and use, will be elaborated through the collaborative work of Sardono W Kusumo and the tattooists in this work.