Camel Hair Tattoo Art of Pakistan: Analysis of its Symbols and Motifs

By Afsah Idrees Akhtar.

Published by The Arts in Society, a book imprint by Common Ground Publishing

Format Price
Book: Electronic $US15.00
Paperback $US40.00
Hardback $US60.00

DOI: 10.18848/978-1-61229-890-0/CGP

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.

Book: Electronic (PDF File; 15.890MB). Paperback (Book: Print (Paperback)). Hardback (Book: Print (Hardback)). Published by The Arts in Society, a book imprint by Common Ground Publishing.

Afsah Idrees Akhtar

Lecturer, Fine Arts Department, The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Bahawalpur, Pakistan

Afsah Idrees Akhtar is an ambitious, emerging art historian who has her M.Phil. in art history from University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan and received her Bachelor’s in painting from National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan. In her eighteen years of teaching, she has taught a diverse range of art subjects at various universities. She has presented at multiple conferences including the Arts in Society conference at the Imperial College, London, where she highlighted the unique art of camel hair tattoo. Her interests explore symbols and motifs used in the traditional arts and crafts of Pakistan.


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