Wondering what the designs in the Ara the Rat x Kond Gallery collab mean?
Check out the following guide
Throughout history, those shunned by society have sought unity amongst themselves by creating a language of allegiance and ranking through the ink embedded in their skin.
Soviet prison tattoos hid a rich and elaborate visual language, revealing everything from an inmateʼs rank to their conviction. A study of prisonersʼ body art revealed cryptic symbols, recurring motifs, and unwritten laws known only to those on the inside.
One of the oldest symbols of the criminal world, often displayed with a hat (from "Puss in Boots"). Cats are seen as the personification of fortune, prudence and patience.
The abbreviation KOT (Korennoy Obitatel Tiurmy) translates to "Native prison resident", so "KOT" (kot; cat) will indicate a chronic prisoner.
In this design, the cat wears a flat cap - an iconic symbol of the soviet era working class.
FACT: Many Genocide survivors from Van settled in Kond after arriving in Yerevan in 1915.
FACT: Kondʼs history dates back to when Yerevan was part of the Persian Empire, and remnants of some of the architecture from that period can still be seen, like the Tepebaşı mosque.
(See: Van cat, Persian cat)
Perhaps the most well-known tattoo associated with crime and prison.
There are many reasons why a prisoner would have this tattoo, but the most common is that an teardrop will symbolize the death of a loved one.
Only the wearer will know the exact meaning of the tattoo.
FACT: The outline of the Kond district when seen on a map is the shape of a tear drop.
FACT: Kond is not connected to the cityʼs running water pipes and many homes lack running water.
Photo / Ara the Rat
A cathedral/monastery/church tattoo denotes the amount of time
the bearer has been in prison, with each steeple representing a year.
It can also indicate the number of times the bearer has been incarcerated, if he's served time for multiple offenses.
Photo / Ara the Rat
FACT: The Surp Hovhannes Church (pictured below) originally built in 1710 on top of the ruins of a medieval church, is still in use in Kond today.
Photo and artwork by Sereg Navasardyan
A knuckle tattoo is a specific kind of tattoo that most commonly uses four-letter words.
In this design the Armenian letters K-O-N-D are tattooed onto the knuckles of a closed fist to signify the strength and resilience of its people.
Numerous attempts by authorities to displace them have failed. Cut off from modern amenities, the survival of the people of Kond is an act of defiance.
The single eight pointed star known as “Vosmikonechnik” denotes that the person is a semi-authority among criminals. Often refered to as “thief in law”
Tattooed on the shoulders or the knees ("I kneel to no-one")
A dove tattoo is a symbol of good tidings and deliverance from suffering.
Dove breeding/Pigeon keeping is a popular hobby in Armenia.
In this design, a dove is guarding the arches of the Tepebaşı mosque built in 1687 when Kond was part of the Persian Empire.
Kond is Yerevan's oldest surviving area but its future hangs in the balance.
In recent years, dozens of cultural and historical monuments have been destroyed in Yerevan, falling victim to rapid urbanization which has changed the face of the city and taken a piece of Old Yerevan with it forever.
FACT: In his story “Doves,” the 19th-century writer Vahan Totovents described the lowly social standing of dove breeders in Armenia.
“People pointed fingers at dove breeders as if they were thieves or criminals,” Totovents wrote. “No one would give their daughters to a dove breeder's son, and no one proposed to a dove breeder's daughters.”
The heart with an arrow sometimes represents heartbreak, a bloody and violent end to love.
It may also represent Cupid's arrow. In Greek mythology, anyone struck by Cupid's arrow fell immediately in love.
Visitors to Kond are struck by the warm, welcoming community, where invitations for coffee and a chat will greet you in many of its corners.
Photos / Ara the Rat
Ara the Rat collaboration with Kond Gallery, an initiative to revitalize Kond, the oldest neighborhood in Yerevan, with street art.
15% of the proceeds from the Kond Collection will support the Kond Gallery through the Ayo!, a fundraising platform initiated by the Fund for Armenian Relief.