Omar Havana

Photographer
    
Devotees of the Ink
Location: Paris, France
Nationality: Spanish
Biography: Omar Havana, 1975 Granada, Spain. Spanish Freelance Photojournalist. Based in Paris, France. Previously based in Asia. ( Nepal 2014-2015 and Cambodia 2008 - 2014 ; 2015-2017) Omar has worked as a professional photojournalist since 2005, and since... read on

Once a year, thousands of people from all over Thailand travel to the Wat Bang Phra temple, located about 70 kilometers outside of Bangkok in Nakhom Pathom province, to take part in the Wai Kru, a Thai ceremony and one of the country's most bizarre festival. The festival is attended by tattoo masters - some who are monks and some who are not (called "Ajans"), and by those who believe in the magical powers of the tattoos which are inked into their skin during the festival.

These tattoos - called Sak Yant in Thai - are believed to bring spiritual and physical protection to the person who wears them, especially those drawn by Wat Bang Phra's famous monks, which are thought to have mystical power. Many people choose tattoos that depict monkeys or tigers, as well as inscriptions in the ancient Khmer/Cambodian script.

During the festival, some men will go into trances, acting out the characteristics of the animals depicted in their newly-carved tattoos. These holy tattoos are believed to give the wearer protection of evil, as well as bring strength, good luck, and other magical features. The tattoos are blessed by the monks, who breathe life into them.

The practice is full of history and tradition. The word "sak" in Thai means "to tap" (i.e. "to tattoo") and the word "yant" refers to the Sanskrit word "yantra -a mystical diagram or amulet supposed to possess occult powers or magical benefits-.” Thousands of years ago, Hindus began painting and working with magic symbols, which were used for meditation. Today, this history is reflected not only in the drawings inked forever on the believers' bodies but also in the methods. Made in the traditional way - using a bamboo stick sharpened into a needle - and drawn entirely by hand, each tattoo is composed of more than a thousand stitches, giving the impression of a thin line.

Photography: ©Omar Havana / Getty Images. All Rights Reserved


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By Omar Havana —

STORY

Bonjour, Paris

By Omar Havana — "The meaning of the other and love have disappeared from this society. Without money, people do not exist."  - Jean, a 33-year-old..
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Trapped: the Dark Side of Cambodia's Beer Gardens

By Omar Havana — Throughout Cambodia, thousands of women, most of them under the age of 25, work in beer gardens, karaoke bars and private parties promoting beer..
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When the Earth Shook Nepal

By Omar Havana — A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25th, 2015, shaking the already-impoverished nation to its core, killing over 8,000 people,..
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A woman's Cry: The detention of Tep Vanny

By Omar Havana — Tep Vanny is Cambodia’s most famous activist and the leader of the women of Boeung Kak Lake, who stormed the country after their forced..
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Inside a Cambodian Slaughterhouse

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The Way

By Omar Havana — More than 100,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Greece since the beginning of 2016. They cross the Mediterranean, risking their lives to..
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The Khmer Fighters

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My Country Is My Family

By Omar Havana — Surrounded by stunning forest, Beldangi is an example of how a refugee camp should be. Only one banner and a barrier at the main entrance indicate..
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Evicting Dreams: The Last Days of the White Building

By Omar Havana — On June 6th, the faces of the residents of the White Building showed the sadness of what were their last days home. During those days, people..
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The Bucolic Life of a Cambodian Grandmother Accused of Mass Killings

By Omar Havana — In this dusty mountain hamlet on the Thai border, she is known as Grandma Chaem. The tiny 74-year-old lives peacefully in a snug, stilted house..
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The Angkor Hell

By Omar Havana — Just a few dozen kilometers away from the world-famous Angkor temples, about 300 people have lived for the last three years in a rapidly expanding..
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La Vie En Jaune

By Omar Havana — Hundreds of thousands of “Gilet Jaunes” (meaning “Yellow Vest” in French) have taken to the streets of France every weekend..
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