Naledi Sande Lifestyle Writer
A couple of years ago, two tattoo artists were jailed for raping a top musician’s daughter who had come to their house for a tattoo.
The girl, then 19 years old was an unfortunate victim of the tattoo craze that was gaining momentum in the country.
She represents a section of young people that are joining the craze to have different marks and images permanently engraved on their bodies.
There have been serious debates about tattoos in the society.
“Tattoos are satanic!” “Tattoos are a type of art.” “Tattoos are immoral.”
These are some of the sentiments raised in such arguments.
As this writer walked into a salon where one tattoo artist used to operate, the women I approached quickly discouraged me from getting a tattoo.
“My daughter, please do not put a tattoo. It is evil. God will never forgive you,” said one of them.
But then, what do non-Christians feel about tattoos?
Isn’t it supposed to be considered as just another work of art? Similar to painting and animation?
Refusing to give out his full identity, Kudakwashe, a man with tattoos, narrated his experience with the art.
“It was a dare on my 18th birthday. I got myself a cross with the inscription ‘The Lord is my Shepard’ on my arm. I felt so cool and showed it off to whoever cared,” he said.
Years later, Kuda has a total of 12 tattoos on different parts of his body.
He said his tattoos are an expression of the things he holds close to his heart especially his Christian convictions.
“I’m a Christian. Baptised in water and in the Spirit. My father was a pastor. The markings on my body all say many things thing about Christ. But people associate a lot of tattoos with evil.”
Talent Chinopfuma said that she is planning to have a tattoo soon because they look beautiful.
“I am thinking of getting a tattoo because I think they look cool. I just want one although I haven’t made a final decision yet.”
Andrew Manjonjo had tattoos on his arms when he was young. Now he is towards 30 years and he does not regret having them at all.
“Tattoos are a way of expressing my emotions through art. All my tattoos express something I was going through at that time. They are memories and I don’t regret them. As I grow older they get older too,” he said.
The business is not so popular in Zimbabwe but one is guaranteed to get a well-done tattoo in Harare.
Craig Bell of Mystic Tattoos has been operating as an artist for six years and said he loves the challenge of tattooing. He also confirmed how most tattoos that his clientele requests are personal statements and tribal tattoos.
“Statement tattoos are like a message or the client’s name while tribal artworks are more like drawings that have a deeper meaning to the client,” said Bell.
Farai Rodrick Madziwa owner of InkUp Parlour has also been in the business for over six years.
“Yes, some people criticize saying its evil. But it’s just a way to express one’s self, take an image, or state of beauty,” he said.
The officials of Mystic Tattoos and InkUp both highlighted how most of the people that come in for tattoos are between the ages of 18-30 years.
Farai said, “This is the most active age group and they understand better the state of the art. We can’t do tattoos on people under 18 and people above 30 usually think they are too old for such. They also seem not to get the understanding of body art.”
Tattoo artists and parlours across the country follow a strict set of regulations in order to prevent infections and transmissions of diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis.
However, there are beliefs that the tattoo inks artists use are not closely monitored.
Craig said that all his equipment is always sterilised and he uses new needles on each person.
“No one has complained yet, but when I was learning I went too deep and the area would swell up for some time. They came out well at the end,” Farai said.
While others are getting tattoos to show off to the world, some are placing them at very private areas.
There are many reasons why a person might choose to have their genitals tattooed. Often the choice is decorative and to arouse the person who is looking.
Women get their breasts, thighs or lower backs tattooed to increase their sexual appeal
“Tattoos on private areas are very popular. I have done a few. Couples come in to have their lovers’ names printed on their private areas. Sometimes they surprise each other.
“I just think it is a way of permanently showing your better half that your body belongs to the other,” said Craig.
Rather than meaning something literal and universal, the art on bodies is often personal and complicated.
However, some designs still shout a very particular meaning.
Tear drops can be associated with death and prison.
They may also mean mourning. Lil Wayne and Tyga are celebrities who have tear drop tattoos.
Ronald Ngwenya said when he lost his mother he felt alone and lost and opted for a tear drop tattoo.
“Growing up without a mother meant that I had lost that eternal love mothers have for their children. I put that tear drop tattoo in remembrance of my mother. I know she is always with me,” he said.
Some have butterfly tattoos.
Butterflies are symbols of the soul in many cultures and are used to denote transformation or change.
Butterfly tattoos are usually donned by women.
However, some people are still scared to explore this kind of art simply because of what the society thinks or feels about it.
“I used to want a tattoo when I was growing up until I found out it is associated with evil. I might tolerate a temporary one. Permanently, no,” one lady, Karen Siziba said.
There is a negative stereotype against people with tattoos or those who even admire the art.
“People regard tattoos as something put by gangsters and women of loose morals. If you look at most people with tattoos like musicians and actors, some of them use drugs and others have been jailed at some point. For me a tattoo is a taboo,” Lacy Dumburashe said.
Anyone who would like to have a tattoo has to be very cautious of what their peers or family will think of them.
“I’d only have a small tattoo because I do not want something that I’m going to regret. I may have a tiny one that won’t be too visible when I get older,” said 22-year-old Takudzwa Matambura.
Rihanna, Chris Brown and Lil Wayne are all famous for their music but they are also famous for their love for tattoos.
Tanya, a mother of two is also against tattoos.
“I am scared of having tattoos because with age it will not look nice on me. Besides it is associated with evil spirits, so as a Christian I will not do anything of that sort.”
Most tattoos are permanent and it seems that is what scares a lot of people.
Queen of pop Beyonce Knowles had a tattoo on her upper thigh when she was growing, but she later found a way to have it removed.
Tattoo removal is a painful procedure. The process includes several zaps from a laser in order to diminish the pigment of the tattoo.
In fact, most people say that tattoo removal is far more painful than actually getting a tattoo. Sometimes, the laser can leave scars too.
Tattooing is one of the greatest human artistic expressions. It may also be the oldest.
Tattoos in the early ages, were borne not for fashion. Instead, they were generally inscribed in the body, essentially for the medicinal and spiritual qualities.
In Africa, people from some cultures had marks inscribed on their bodies as a traditional practice.
They held great symbolic importance as well while some tattoos protected the tribal people from every kind of harmful spirits, the others reflect the courage and bravery.
The Yoruba in Nigeria and the Ndau in Eastern Zimbabwe are some of the tribes that had tribal markings on their bodies.
In the modern day, those who have tattoos on their bodies see it as a form of art.
They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but when it comes to engagement rings, some couples are bucking the trend and forgoing jewellery altogether.
Many people are now opting for engagement tattoos on their ring finger.
The inked artwork signifies the same long-lasting commitment that a ring typically does with tattoos being a little more difficult to remove.
Celebrities who have had engagement tattoos include Ashlee Simpson, Adam Levine, of Maroon 5 and wife Behati Prinsloo while Beyonce tattooed her lucky number four in Roman numerals, IV, on her ring finger after marrying Jay-Z.
To really determine whether tattoos are art engages the question, “what is art?” But the easiest answer comes down to questions of intention and perception.
If the creator or receiver of the tattoo sees it as art, then that’s what it is.
Tattoos have gone through movements and trends, just as any other art form has.
Raunchy dancer Beverly Sibanda has three tattoos.
“I just love them. They have no meaning at all. I had the first one in 2009 and had the other two later,” she said.
Another artiste with tattoos is Soul Jah Love, but the musician refused to talk about his body marks.