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Lars Krutak, Tattoo Hunter

By March 22, 2009

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If you haven't had a chance to catch the latest tattoo reality show, you will want to tune in to the Discovery Channel and check out Tattoo Hunter. It's actually a documentary-style show in which the "host," tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak, visits some of the most remote parts of the world, seeking tattoos from members of the few remaining authentic tribes.

Lars has actually been a technical adviser for Vanishing Tattoo, the renowned online tattoo museum that centers around the search for the "last authentic tattoos." Now Lars attempts to integrate himself as an honorary member of the ancient tribes he visits, thus earning him the right to also receive a tattoo that is typically reserved for its own.

What I like best about the show is that Lars isn't one of those typical anthropologists who seem to be prepared for and unsurprised by anything that they encounter while exploring unfamiliar people and territory. He willingly participates in all of the rituals and shows the utmost respect toward the people he is visiting, but he isn't afraid to grimace while eating grubs or look "foolish" by losing valiantly in the games played among the tribal men. In the two episodes that have been aired so far, Lars manages to win the tattoo artist over and win the coveted prize of an authentic tattoo. His genuine and down-to-earth nature is sure to win you over as well. I think this is time much better spent than watching the over-dramatized tattoo "reality" shows.


March 22, 2009 at 7:46 pm
(1) PJ Reece says:

Re Lars Krutak: I think we should all pay more attention to the authentic tribal tattoo traditions. Not to copy the designs ourselves, but to learn from their beliefs in symbology. We take tattoos now as fashion statements, but the whole thing started with tattoos as a way to commune with and appease the forces of nature that were unknown. Well, we still don’t know much about ultimate reality, so perhaps tattoos still have a role in an uncertain world. The Iban people in Borneo believed that their gods wouldn’t recognize a person if he or she wasn’t tattooed. Those would be some serious tattoos they took. Confession: I don’t have a tattoo, but if I get one, the desing is going to emanate from the soul — whatever that is. For the sake of argument, I imagine the soul to be the source of all those myths and symbols that moved the tribals to paint themselves so sincerely.

March 29, 2009 at 5:37 pm
(2) Seyha says:

So true! I believe in the power of tribal tattoo. My father had a buddhist monk tattooed him to protect him from Khmer Rogue. He survied the war but his eleven of his relatives died.

April 3, 2009 at 1:09 pm
(3) Joe Cuviello says:

The show is brilliant. It is educational and entertaining. Tattoo Hunter immerses himself in the intimate traditions of these rare cultures. We get to see things we would never experience without him.

My only disappointment is that the Discovery Channel seems hell bent on letting this show die before it ever gets started. They do not advertise the show. They re-run the crap out of all the other boring garbage they produce, yet they only show this program for 1 hour each week. It’s sad that such a good show, with such an interesting host and fantastic subjects is simply going to fade away from the spotlight. It deserves much better.

July 2, 2009 at 3:18 am
(4) Miranda says:

The show is fascinating and Lars is delicious. More of both would be excellent.

August 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm
(5) Rhonda says:

Just saw this show for first time last night and LOVED it!! Lars seems to be a thoughtful and sincere person. Very respectful of the people, tribes and their cultures and beliefs.

November 25, 2009 at 4:54 pm
(6) faye says:

The show is terrible, the man “hunts” down tattoos which mean nothing to him but have deep significance for the tribes they belong to.
He believes he is becoming more spiritual by taking these these tattoos but really they are empty gestures that rob the originators of the tattoos of their heritage.

December 18, 2009 at 8:02 pm
(7) 4finger says:

Hey Faye…have you ever spent time in an indigenous village or even spoken to a tribal person about the reality of what is their life and where it is headed? Have you ever given them the opportunity to speak to the world about the importance of their tattooing cultures and why they are vanishing? Have you ever done anything to help document vanishing artistic traditions for future generations that could be used in cultural heritage projects? If you had any inkling about either of these facts, then perhaps you would think twice about making such ridiculous and uneducated statements…Cause if you have been paying attention, the show is more about the people and their backstories than the host himself.

December 20, 2009 at 4:55 pm
(8) ThatOne says:

I am a white man, with an African extended family with a rich past which I have learned to respect.

The first trailers for Tattoo Hunter that I saw showed a jovial man flushing mud out of his Y-Fronts and my heart sank; it looked like another series of poking fun at other peoples was on its way. I decided to watch a few minutes before making up my mind.

So I am hooked. Hooked to the point that I am kicking myself for having missed several episodes. That’s how I found this: I was looking for a DVD set to buy. Lars shows warmth, spiritual generosity, humility, courage, rigour, intellectual honesty and a natural ability for communicating knowledge. I don’t just watch the episodes; I rivet myself to them.

We white folk show one particular arrogance which dismays me every time I encounter it: we refuse to judge other cultures by their own standards. We know a great deal about the Roman civilisation. It overran vast territories, covering them with great structures of stone and leaving here and there artefacts of metal, stone and fired pottery. That’s a whole lot of traces that 2000 years cannot erase, and that allow us to hook up other, more fragile artefacts that we find to form a pretty complete picture of their lives and their beliefs.

My family’s African ancestors had very little access to stone for buildings or metals for artefacts, and they needed little fired pottery because nature supplied them with recipients from plants, trees and giant dried fruits. They lived hard lives in a difficult environment and a demanding climate, so metal work was forcibly limited to the bare essentials: tools, arms, and insignia for identifying their ruling classes. They too had, and still have in a small way, a tattoo culture that Lars would have enjoyed researching at its heyday. Finally they had no use for paper, since they had a far more developed oral culture than any white peoples have ever had.

So my wife’s ancestral culture cannot be judged by the criteria we used to crack open the codes of Roman culture. Nearly all of their artefacts were made of perishable matter, and by the time white people broke through into their heartlands only one or two generations of artefacts existed in any quantity. based on which the white anthropologists declared that my wife’s ancestors’ culture was easy to condemn summarily: “They didn’t have much culture”. Every time I encounter any traces of that way of judging other civilisations, my delicate pink-green-blue-white skin crawls.

It is very rarely that a show like Tattoo Hunter comes along, with a presenter like Lars who takes us right into part of a totally different culture to our own, and teaches us how to judge that culture on its own appropriate criteria. When he pays with his person to obtain a literally incisive view into a life totally unlike our own, he gives more conventional presenters of anthropology an example that few of them will have the insight and the courage to follow.

I want it all. Is there a DVD set?

December 23, 2009 at 5:32 pm
(9) Robert Shave says:

Its a great show and way better than LA/Miami/London ink, but PLEASE keep the camera still, it makes me sea sick. IS the cameraman drunk?

February 7, 2010 at 8:25 am
(10) Erwin says:

Nice show, but I am wondering how it is possible that in the 2 shows I saw, none of the other tattoo is still on his body???????? Two different shows, each with a “clean” body…………

February 7, 2010 at 10:02 am
(11) joy says:

i cant say so many words…but one thing 4 sure `i love LARS KRUTAK! my days would be so hard 2 sleep when i cant see his show……..Lars if ever u read this comment,jst want u 2 know that i will never stop dreaming that maybe if by chance i would meet you in person..im your avid fans here in the philippines..“`till we meet…(LOVE JOY)

February 5, 2011 at 2:24 pm
(12) tattooluum says:

Having studied anthropology and owning a tattoo shop I am very excited about this show. Ironically my hubby and tat artist told me about this show this morning….we live in Tulum, Mexico so we get this a lil late. I just posted a blog yesterday on our site about anthroplogy and tattoos..haha..synchronicity. I honestly have not seen this show but look forward to it. Does any one know if you can get the episodes on dvd?

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