Traditional Ornaments: five questions to Matilde Borriero


Matilde Borriero, aka Matt_Rand0ms, is a multidisciplinary artist from Arco, Italy. She practises modern tattooing, traditional handpoke, and is also experimenting other body modification techniques.

We met Matilde online when we started Aswad, and we were mermerized by her focus and great approach towards traditional tattooing, specially on her work around traditional and neo-amazigh rituals.

How did you become a tattoo artist and what about the handpoke?

Well, I never considered the tattooer career before the moment I actually find myself into “the game”. I started just for curiosity on myself and my friends with handpoke techniques and the more I poked the more I enjoyed it. Handpoke is what let me really feel the skin of a person and that kinda feels like I’m breaking their shells and “touching” an uncovered part of them.
Of course I follow many artists but I never focus on a single one. What I’m trying to do is mixing ancient cultures and new concepts so I just try to take inspiration from all of them and play with the variety of shapes and structures.

What has inspired your tattoo career?

I’ve always found tattoos a great way to express ourselves and I kinda focused on that single thing trying to express myself through my tattoo designs.
Of course I follow many artists but I never focus on a single one. What I’m trying to do is mixing ancient cultures and new concepts so I just try to take inspiration from all of them and play with the variety of shapes and structures.

How did you discovered amazigh tattooing?

I can’t remember the first time I saw a berber tattoo, maybe it was surfing the internet, but I started loving them after seeing some handpokers do this and bought some books to understand the culture behind them. Since then I fell in love.

What is, in your opinion, the meaning behind wearing an amazigh tattoo in 2019?

There is a division to do between “cultural” amazigh tattoos and “fashion” on my opinion. Nothing bad, I mean I would love those designs on me too! Just different concept of tattooing: who is wearing an original amazigh tattoo is carrying a culture, a real meaning and real amulets. On the other hand, who is wearing an amazigh for his design is carrying a piece of art that could bring people closer to this culture.

In North African countries, a new generation have a strong hunger for reviving traditional tattoo. What would be your advice for them?

Be proud of your Amazigh and wear them like your favorite shirt, because it’s part of you like your eye color. There’s nothing wrong with your culture. Who could say it’s inappropriate?

Get in touch with Matilde

Matilde is working at Endorphin Tattoo Piercing & Bodmod in Arco (Italy)
Fb: Matilde Borriero
Ig: matt_rand0ms
Mail: [email protected]

Building bridges : traditional symbolism with Ghazal Jafari

Ghazal Jafari is a talented hanpoke artist based in The Netherlands.

Talisman creator ♡ Specialized in blackwork tattoos ♡ Combining ancient healing and protection symbols, Spirit Animals and Sacred Geometry ♡

We asked Ghazal about her work and strong interest in tattoo symbolism and she gladly accepted to answer our questions

Family portrait

Ghazal started tattooing thanks to her mother, a well established cosmetic and medical tattooist and who has been teaching students for over 20 years.
After getting the basics of cosmetic tattooing, Ghazal realised that it wasn’t the path she wanted to follow.

So her mother pushed her to keep tattooing and even gifted her with her first tattoo machine. That’s how she started to study tattoos in a more artistic and traditional approach.

Rituals, handpoke & traditions

After reasearching the indigenous tattooing cultures for many years, she felt this incredible pull towards the ritual and the ceremony of traditional handpoke tattooing.

Quite early, she knew that skin was the medium she wanted to explore and that tattooing had and incredible power.

“We are applying shapes, symbols and colors to our body. These shapes, symbols and colors have significant and energy and have the power to alter our consciousness. So many indiginous tribes have used this powerful tool in their spiritual practice.”

Tattoos have been applied for centuries all over the globe and Ghazal have spent the last ten years studying these powerful traditions, symbolism and mysticism.

Building bridges : from Iran to Morocco

Ghazal is from Persian descent and has always had a very strong tie with her inheritance. She has travelled many times to visit her grandmother and to discover her roots and the old persian traditions.

She remembers her telling the old stories and celebrating the old pagan ways : the beautiful stories of Winter Solstice or the Persian new year, the Spring Equinox. She has learned so much from this incredible woman. 

“I was studying the magical powers of symbols woven into Persian kilims and rugs to create talismans. And I discovered this whole new world!”

In past times in Iran, the upper class women would be tattooed with a beard-like pattern. After doing more research, she discovered so many interesting things.

She discovered a 800 year old poem of the Persian poet Rumi, about a woman getting a lion tattoo. She read that old Persian Kings and Queens were tattooed to honour the Gods and to beautify themselves. Ghazal traced these back to the even older Persian nomads wearing these symbols on their faces and bodies.

The next step in her research lead her to the Amazigh tribe.

“It is so beautiful to see how all these tribes were some how connected and share so many similarities in their traditions. We are all more connected than we think.”

Roots and pride : the future of traditional tattooing

“It brings such joy to me that, we, the new generations, are rediscovering these beautiful ways in which our Ancestors honoured the world around them. How they believed in magic and the power of symbols. I am so humbled to be able to contribute to this and to keep these traditions alive. “

“Wear them with pride. I certainly do!”

For Ghazal, there is nothing so powerfull than to honour and celebrate our roots and therefore our traditions. What is also very important to her, is understanding what it is you are tattooing or receiving as a form of respect to the art of traditional tattooing and the symbols behind it.

How to get in touch with Ghazal ?

Ghazal devides her time between Rotterdam and Malage. She also regularly tattoos in London and Cheltenham in the UK.

She is what we can call a “Nomad”, travelling from here to there, always in quest of new inspirations and discoveries around traditional tattooing.

You can follow her next destinations on Instagram:

Or contact her by mail at :[email protected]

“There is a meditative feel to receiving and giving a handpoke tattoo. I want to honour that.”


The Art of Amazigh Tattooing in Tunisia

In 2016, Myriam Bou-saha and the German/French channel Arte, went on a trip to meet a young tunisian tattoo artist: Manel Mahdouani. They followed her on her adventure in south Tunisia, a quest for meaning, art and heritage.

Tattooing Tunis

In Tunisia, there are only a few tattoo artists in the capital, and she is the only woman among them. Like the others, she has no official status, but her studio is crowded with customers in demand for ink.

Since the “wind of freedom” that blew on the country in January 2011, many hype youngsters are adopting tattoos. However, despite “a certain tolerance towards them, many people still refuse to hear about it”, regrets the artist.

“Tunisie, l’art du tatouage berbère” – 360 Géo – Arte 

Manel embodies the new generation of Tunisian women. After studying Psychology and Fine Arts, she started her apprenticeship for nearly 6 months and then began tattooing on her own before opening her first shop Agape Ink

The majority of her clients are girls and the most popular tattoos are contemporary designs in vogue or borrowed from other cultures around the world. However, thanks to her research and passion regarding to amazigh tattooing techniques and history, her clients started asking for the Berber designs and symbols that she reproduces.

“Tunisie, l’art du tatouage berbère” – 360 Géo – Arte 

Cultural Heritage

For Manel, tattooing is also a quest for meaning. The last generation wearing traditional Berber tattoos is our grandmothers’. In search of the true meaning of the traditional designs, Manel did not get the answers she hoped for in Tunis and decides to drive south to meet tattooed women and find the answers to her questions.

“The old ladies I met during filming know how to recognize a snake, scorpion or olive tree pattern,” says Manel Mahdouani. But the meaning, the symbolism of these tattoos escapes them, unfortunately.”

Parchment skins that no longer engage, ancestral language that mothers do not transmit anymore. This is the story of mute and painful that Manel wants to tell.

“Tunisie, l’art du tatouage berbère” – 360 Géo – Arte 

She does not describe herself as an activist of Amazigh rights. “I am rather curious about my story and my past. And I would like, at my modest level, help exhuming this repressed facet of the Tunisian culture. “

Watch the documentary

Manel Mahdouani took the road with her sketchbook, heading south to meet the latest tattooed Berber women.

Follow her in this beautiful documentary :


Berber Tattooing in Morocco’s Middle Atlas

Loretta’s book “Berber Tattooing in Morocco’s Middle Atlas”, illustrates her journey exploring, with her husband Felix Leu, the fading tattoo culture of Berber tribes in 1988.

The Moutain Road

Felix & Loretta Leu, both born in 1945, are artists and adventurers. They travelled and lived in America, Europe, North Africa, India and Nepal, and in time were accompanied by four children, who were all born “on the road”. In 1978 they discovered tattooing and, from there, “Leu” became one the most respected names in the tattoo world.

As tattoo artists themselves, Felix and Loretta were able to find a common ground with the Berber families: they had tattoos on their faces, ankles, calves, arms and hands, but also on their jaws, which went down their necks, “like a beard,” she says.

Berber Tattooing in Morocco’s Middle Atlas – F&L Leu – Seedpress – 2017

Fading cultural heritage

The book uniquely records the traditional tattoos of Berber women through their personal stories, revealing their culture and the role of tattoo, while providing excellent visual material consisting of fifty rare photographs, thirty-seven pencil illustrations, one hundred twelve black & white drawings, and two maps.

Berber Tattooing in Morocco’s Middle Atlas – F&L Leu – Seedpress – 2017

A unique and tender record of the North African tribal skin art. The result of a series of chance encounters, opening a doorway into the intimate world amazigh women. A journey through time and into wild landscapes with beautiful illustrations by Aia Leu (Felix and Loretta’s daughter).

Getting the book

This book of previously unpublished work, collected thirty years ago is a tribute, to the art of tattoo, to tradition, to family and to love.

It is out of stock but you can register on the waiting list for the next release.

Check on Amazon