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“It wouldn’t do for them to confuse me in court for the suspect”

“It wouldn’t do for them to confuse me in court for the suspect” “It wouldn’t do for them to confuse me in court for the suspect”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

UM Ink

Legal psychologist and researcher dr. Henry Otgaar (34) has no shortage of tattoos, the most meaningful of which covers his entire chest. When he leaves his top two buttons open, it can be seen peeking out from his shirt: a tiger head with a kris – a traditional Indonesian dagger – and a pair of crossed machetes.

“I’ve been doing pencak silat, an ancient Indonesian martial art, since I was five years old. My father’s side of the family is Indonesian and he introduced me to it. I didn’t have to think long about my tattoos. It’s part of the pencak silat way to be positive about life, make yourself of service and protect the people around you. If you want to get properly into it, tattoos are part of the deal. They were done by an assistant trainer from my own gym. During competitions, of course, the tattoos also help to intimidate your opponent.

"All my tattoos have to do with my sport, my lifestyle. The one on my chest has three elements: a tiger’s head, a kris and two machetes. Alongside the snake, the horse, the heron and the monkey, the tiger is one of the animal styles in pencak silat. It’s the most dangerous and important animal. The tiger represents peace and violence: it’s one of the most violent techniques, which students are taught not to apply in the outside world. In my school the tiger style is the one that’s practised most. The kris is a mystical weapon in traditional Indonesian culture which is said to contain the souls of your ancestors. Most Indonesian families have a kris which is handed down from father to son. It’s also supposed to protect your family, school and yourself during a fight. In the past they were used to offer sacrifices to ancestors. I got the tattoo of the machetes added later. They’re my favourite weapons in pencak silat, my specialty. We train with real machetes. With and without an opponent I teach student show to defend themselves with those.

"There are hand and neck tattoos that I like, but I’d never get one. For my work I occasionally need to appear in court as an expert witness, and it wouldn’t do for them to confuse me for the suspect, haha. I try to choose places that will be covered under a suit and that stay smooth as you age. So tattoos also motivate me to train hard to keep my skin taut.”

In this series, employees and students are interviewed about their tattoo.



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