From a modest tattoo studio in Dimapur to making it to the top 100 best tattoo artist in the world by The World Atlas of Tattoos, Mo Naga has come a long way.
Mo Naga, who runs a tattoo studio Headhunters Ink in Dimapur, has been trying to revive the vanishing tattooing tradition of various tribes in Nagaland. With it, he has been trying to re-interpret traditional Naga tattooing by taking inspiration from Naga art and culture reflected in various tribal costumes, folk tales, paintings, wood carvings, etc.
As a part of his research, he has spent months traveling into the interior Naga villages, digging the tattoo culture with the sole purpose of preserving the lost identity and to share it to the world. His research and skills paid off as scholars and art-lovers alike from round the globe are now starting to take notice of him.
I could probably go on and on but I’d rather not bore you with it but show you instead. So, ladies and gentleman, without further ado, I present you Mo Naga – his story and his work!
First things first – This is How He Started Off!
Mo Naga started tattooing since 2004, since his college days, however he never imagined of becoming a professional tattoo artist.
He was a fashion designing student who has completed his degree from NIFT Hyderabad. As a fashion designer he had always wanted to bring out innovative changes in the Naga traditional textiles. While doing his research on Naga Textiles in 2007, he came across some information about the rich Naga Tattoo Tradition.
On his further study on the Naga tattoos, he realized the importance and the significance of tattoos in the Naga culture, and how tattoos are an integral part of the Naga cultural identity. The fact that there was nobody taking the initiative to preserve or research on the dying tradition left a deep impression on him. Mo Naga felt the urgency to initiate the research, documentation and promotion of this most important yet fast vanishing traditional art form.
This was then that he left everything and took the path less traveled. Everything changed after that for him and the rest is history!
(Mo + Alobo)Naga – The Connection
Ok. So we all know him as Mo Naga. But do you know his full name? I suppose not.
Well, how he came up with the name Mo Naga is as interesting as his tattoos. And yes, it has Alobo Naga’s connection! (What!)
His full name is Moranngam Khaling. Not so familiar? Well, this is one name with a rich meaning. As he explains, it means “The first born son who is wealthy and have lot of guts and will power” (Mo means the first born son, ran means lot of cattles-read mithun, ngam means gutsy)
Here is the interesting part. In 2012, when he had attended a concert where Alobo Naga was performing, the singer had explained why his name was Alobo Naga.
That was when it struck Mo Naga to think from a broader spectrum!
As an artist Mo Naga introspected on how he supports the Naga unity, his work and research on Naga Art Culture expands to the whole of Naga for the benefit of the whole of Nagas. Thus, with the addition of the word Naga, his artistic name was completed.
Since then, the world has come to know of him as Mo Naga.
Featured on Many Books and Magazines, Mo is Dope!
Just because you never read or heard about him in India doesn’t mean he is not well known!
Mo Naga has been featured regularly on many international tattoo magazines. The two books worth mentioning being- ‘‘World’s Tattoo Masters Flash Collection” where Neo and Traditional Naga Tattoos have been highlighted. Here, Mo Naga solely represented India in general and Nagaland in particular. The book featured works of top and most important tattoo artists and contributions to this art form from across the globe.
He was featured alongside the likes of Ed Hardy and Horiyoshi III. (Can you beat that?)
The other one is “The World Atlas of Tattoos”. This book is believed to be the most important book ever to have been published about tattoo. The work of 100 notable artists from around the globe is showcased in this definitive reference on a widespread and intriguing art practice. You can buy the book from Amazon
Mo Naga and his tattoo
So he has inked hundreds of people. But how about his own tattoo? How many tattoos do you think he has? Take a wild guess? 5,7,10,15?
Apparently Mo Naga has only one tattoo on his body which he got it inked from his German friend, who specializes in Polynesian style with 30 years of experience, in December last year at the Hornbill Festival. His tattoo is a fusion of Naga and Polynesian tattoo art.
Well this is not fair!!! A tattoo artist who has inked many tattoos and he himself has only one tattoo? Hmmm… Well he is planning to get his next tattoo from a former traditional Naga tattoo practitioner!
And people he liked to ink?
Ok so there are a list of some people he wants to inked their body. Alobo Naga (We are not sure about him though), the Tetseo Sisters (Would love to see the tattoos. We are guessing Hiyohey!?), Mary Kom and all the Naga youths.
While most of his clients are foreigners, he laments that less Naga youths are coming forth. He wants Naga youths to get Naga tattoos instead of dragons (or a barb wire) and be the proud ambassador of the Naga culture!
Ah well, he’s definitely got a point there!
About Head Hunters Ink
Headhunters’ Ink tattoo school and studio was launched in 2012 with a mission to research, revive, promote and to protect our tattoo traditions. The concept of ‘Headhunters’ Ink Tattoo School and Studio’ was formulated in 2008 and it came into existence in 2012. By 2014 the world tattoo body acknowledged them as one of the most important studios of the world. (Whoa! Respect there brother!)
They do all styles of tattoo including Neo and Traditional Naga Tattoos. Every tattoo that they do earned them funds for their research and revival program. So in a way, the getting inked from them is like you contributing to the movement as well.
So, planning to get a tattoo? You know where to go.
You can visit their page on FaceBook and Instagram, and share it. Let’s help them to become a leading and an important destination of the tattoo world.
Get inked for a good cause.
(Click on the image below and visit Headhunters Ink Facebook page to view more photos and to book your appointment)