Camel Hair Tattoo Art of Pakistan

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  • Title: Camel Hair Tattoo Art of Pakistan: Analysis of its Motifs and Symbols
  • Author(s): Afsah Idrees Akhtar
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Arts in Society
  • Date: July 26, 2016
  • ISBN (hbk): 978-1-61229-888-7
  • ISBN (pbk): 978-1-61229-889-4
  • ISBN (pdf): 978-1-61229-890-0
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Akhtar, Afsah Idrees. 2016. Camel Hair Tattoo Art of Pakistan: Analysis of its Motifs and Symbols. Champaign, IL: Common Ground Research Networks. doi:10.18848/978-1-61229-890-0/CGP.
  • Extent: 118 pages

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Copyright © 2016, Common Ground Research Networks, All Rights Reserved


The unique and mystifying camel hair tattoo art practiced in the remote desert of Cholistan, Pakistan is a distinctive blend of art, philosophy, and mysticism. The artists make beautiful motifs by cutting the hairy coat of the camels. This technique involves cutting rough and coarse hair of the camel with scissors in multiple stages to make patterns and symbols covering the entire body of the camel. Later, the hair-tattoo artists adorn the tattooed camels further by applying natural red and black henna dyes to these geometrical and vegetal motifs. The embellishment of these camels pays homage to their beloved Sufi, who stands as their symbol of the Divine mercy. Seeking spiritual enlightenment, the owners bring these beautiful camels with them when visiting the shrines of the Sufis. This book also explores the roots of the symbols and motifs used in this unknown art. Some of the fascinating discoveries include striking similarities with the motifs of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and prehistoric rock art, pointing to the continuation of the art heritage since times immemorial. These desert pastoralists and nomads, living in isolation in the deprived and pitiable region of Cholistan, carry a rich and abounding heritage and tradition in the form of camel hair tattoo art which the world should know, understand, protect, and promote.