Tattoos of Tibetan Refugees: Dawa


Dawa is 26, she was born in exile in Delhi to Tibetan parents. She is now an American citizen. She chose not to show her face because she hopes to visit Tibet one day.

Dawa has one tattoo, a chime gudril on her wrist. The modern meaning for this design is ‘freedom’ – it represents the Tibetan movement, which she’s involved in.

The chime gudril is an ancient Tibetan weapon, used as a slingshot, to protect flocks from wolves. It is woven from the wool of yak, and decorated with yak’s tail hair. The design itself goes deeper than this practical use – it is woven with the ‘nine eyes’ design, and is considered to ward off evil and ghosts.

Sometimes people will ask her nationality, and Dawa will talk about Tibet. Other times, people notice her tattoo before they notice her, so she finds it can be a conversation ‘deepener’ – and she can explain more about her nation’s history.

To Dawa, this tattoo symbolizes all she is fighting for, religion, history, and freedom.

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