29 December 2012

Nigeria: Tattooing - the Ancient Art Roars On in a New Age

A tattoo is a form of body art made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. In this piece, KELECHI OLUIGBO speaks with a tattoo artist and his patrons on the phenomenon.

While the practice originated from time immemorial and is widespread globally, Tattooing is currently enjoying a renaissance of a sort, especially among the youths and the young at heart, evidently under the influence of western hip-hop artistes and movie stars.

Tattoos come in different forms, designs, colours and even sizes. They could be permanent or temporary.

Mr. Paul Matthew is a tattoo artist operating out of a salon in the popular Wuse Market, Abuja. Noticing that many patrons were asking for the service, Matthew decided to learn the rudiment of tattooing in Lagos where was in apprenticeship fixing eye lashes, nails, and body piercings of all types.

Matthew, who has a medium-size Statue of Liberty tattoo permanently inked on his right forearm as testament to his artistry and his life-long dream to visit New York City in the United States, said he took to tattooing because of the rising demand for the service, "more so when I was very good at fine art in secondary school."

"The cost of a tattoo depends on a number of factors, chiefly the size of the design you want to put on your body. The cheapest would cost you N3,000. Tattoos are of two types, temporary and permanent but the so-called permanent tattoos can also be removed with certain equipment, which are quite expensive. It also costs more to remove a tattoo than to ink one," Matthew stated.

Because it requires breaking the skin barrier, tattooing may carry some health risks, including infection and allergic reactions, Matthew said.

"However, we reduce such risks by taking some precautions like using items only once or sterilising our equipment after each use," he added.

"The most bizarre place I've ever put a tattoo? A lady's buttocks!, Matthew disclosed with a smile.

Miss. Beauty Onose, a student at the University of Abuja, has "Life Goes On" tattooed on her back close to her right arm and a star on her neck.

"Life Goes On is my philosophy of life, that's why I have it tattooed on me. I use it to remind myself to move on with life despite the challenges. The star tattoo was inspired by my favourite Nollywood actress, Tonto Dike, who also has it on her neck. She is my role model. Getting a tattoo is also fashionable and a way to enhance your beauty," Onose told LEADERSHIP WEEKEND

Mr. Chinonye Amadi, a businessman at the Banex Plaza, Abuja has his nickname "skyburn" on the upper part of his left arm.

"I got the tattoo done in Kano just for fashion," he said.

Miss Jennifer Dollar has some butterflies tattooed on her chest. She also has a horse head and "Jenny Dollar" inked on her right arm. "I got the tattoos because I am a fashionable person who likes to keep up with the trends of fashion. The horse head I got from a tattoo catalogue. I don't have any particular reason for choosing it, I just liked it in the catalogue and went with it."

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