Amar Kılıç


In this photograph series entitled “In the Land of Images” women from Northern Mesopotamia, who are the last bearers of the traditional tattoo art, deq (also named dak, dek, veşm) in the Northern Mesopotamia region including Mardin, Urfa, and other villages, are documented. As the last generation carrying the deq culture, the youngest of these women in the photographs is 50. Coming from Arab, Dom, Kurdish and Yazidi origins these women are the bearers of a cultural heritage with their own physical existence, their bodies. These women are also connected to each other through these motifs of a familiar mystical context, engraving them on their bodies to carry throughout their lives, as magical images for blessed, protected, fertile, and healthy living.

Deq motifs are applied to the skin with the help of a series of needles using some kind of ink prepared to mix the breast milk of a woman who gave birth to a baby girl, or gazelle gall with black soot from burnt wood. Deq is an archaic tattoo tradition that has been practiced in Northern Mesopotamia for thousands of years but is about to disappear recently with its last bearers. These motifs which can be applied to different parts of the body, and embody thousands of years of cultural knowledge and experience, are tattooed as totems for different purposes such as decoration, protection, fertility, healing, or good fortune. In addition, some deq motifs have a symbolic value belonging to certain klans. Some of these motifs such as the star symbol of the Goddess Ishtar, the Mesopotamian moon, the Mesopotamian sun, the tree of life, the comb, the gazelle, the mirror, and many nameless others are the embodiments of knowledge referring to Mesopotamian mythology.

The journey of the search for destiny in the footsteps of people whose hands and faces are sealed, and in the symbols engraved on their bodies…