To Tattoo or not To Tattoo – that’s the question..

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other meanings of the word, see tattoo (disambiguation).

“A tattoo is a form of body modification, made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. The first written reference to the word, “tattoo” (or Samoan “Tatau”) appears in the journal of Joseph Banks, the naturalist aboard Captain Cook‘s ship the HMS Endeavour: “I shall now mention the way they mark themselves indelibly, each of them is so marked by their humor or disposition”.

Whole back tattoo, USA 2007

trompe-l’œil spider tattoo

Tattooing has been practiced for centuries in many cultures spread throughout the world. The Ainu, an indigenous people of Japan, traditionally had facial tattoos. Today, one can find Berbers of Tamazgha (North Africa), Māori of New ZealandHausa people of Northern Nigeria, Arabic people in East-Turkey and Atayal of Taiwan with facial tattoos. Tattooing was widespread among Polynesiansand among certain tribal groups in TaiwanPhilippinesBorneoMentawai Islands, Africa, North America, South America,Mesoamerica, Europe, Japan, Cambodia, New Zealand and Micronesia. Indeed, the island of Great Britain takes its name from tattooing, with Britons translating as ‘people of the designs’ and the Picts, who originally inhabited the northern part of Britain, which literally means ‘the painted people’.[1] British people remain the most tattooed in Europe.[1] Despite some taboos surrounding tattooing, the art continues to be popular in many parts of the world.”

The word or even just the thought of a tattoo, evokes strong reactions from some people – to the point where it is often called a “slut stamp” in some cultures!!   It is for this reason, and thanks to my Calvinistic upbringing, that the thought of having a tattoo was always firmly cast aside, with me being convinced that only thieves, pirates and prisoners got tattoos.  That is until my then 15-year-old, fiery redhead, strong-willed, Oscar-nominee daughter, Belinda, crept into my bed one week after my final divorce order came through and thought it a great idea to entice me to the tattoo parlour on the pretext of me celebrating my new-found freedom with a stamp of ink on my body, meanwhile actually just wanting her own first tattoo.  As per usual during that time of misery, I was in tears as soon as I woke up, but her enthusiasm and persuasive powers made it seem a great idea – perhaps it was just time!!

And off we went to Canal Walk, where we found ourselves paging through pages of sample motifs until I settled on a small curved pattern.  Belinda chose a similar design, and offered to go first.  She is a great actress, this child of mine, and upon exiting the tattoo booth, proclaimed that it was “as easy as pie”.  And next thing I knew, there I was, bending over for the artist to begin his masterpiece!

Tattoo shop.

Tattoo shop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And o dear, did I find out what pain really was!  I have had two caesareans, an appendectomy, a few other small ops etc, but never, and I mean never in my entire life have I ever experienced such physical pain as at that point – feeling every needle prick as I was tugged and inked, dot by dot.  I was sweating, with sweat running down my legs into my shoes.  But this was at the point of no return and I grit my teeth and cursed Belinda for telling such a fib.

About two weeks after I had the tattoo done, I called my handy-man to come and work on my pool filter.  I bent down to show him something and nearly fell in the pool with fright when he screamed in shock, pointing to my back.  Now this is the thing, unless you are a contortionist de luxe, you are unable to see your dimples just above your bum if you are not in front of a mirror, and because 44 years of my life was spent without any such stamps on my body, I had clean forgot that I had the damn tattoo.  And he got the fright of his life, because he just did not expect it.

And then I met Kobus, my amazing husband these days, via online dating.  Now to all of you who have done this before, you would know that you need to elaborate about your looks, your needs, your character and your likes and dislikes.  And Kobus disliked tattoos.  But he fell in love with me.  so he has learned to live with me and my tattoo.

Last Thursday we went up to a local resort for a drink, and taking our dogs with us for a swim and run on the beach.  The manageress who served us sported a henna tattoo on her ankle, foot and hand.  These are very popular amongst the Islamic, Indian and Middle Eastern communities:

“Mehndi is the application of henna as a temporary form of skin decoration in IndiaPakistanNepal and Bangladesh as well as byexpatriate communities from those countries. The word mehndi is derived from the Sanskrit word mendhikā.[1] The use of mehndi andturmeric is described in the earliest Hinduism’s Vedic ritual books. Haldi(Staining oneself with turmeric paste) as well as mehndi are Vedic customs, intended to be a symbolic representation of the outer and the inner sun. Vedic customs are centered around the idea of “awakening the inner light”.

Traditional indian designs are of representations of the sun on the palm, which, in this context, is intended to represent the hands and feet                  

Mehndi decorations became fashionable in the West in the late 1990s, where they are sometimes called henna tattoos. Henna is typically applied during special occasions like weddings and Muslim Festivals such as Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha . Similarly in Hindufestivals like Karva ChauthDiwaliBhaidooj and Teej. In some Hindu festivals, many women have Henna applied to their hands and feet. It is usually drawn on the palms and feet, where the design will be clearest because the skin on these surfaces naturally contains less of the pigment, melanin. Henna was originally used as a form of decoration mainly for brides”. – Wikipedia.

I had to have one done.  BUT, my dear Kobus has wanted to tattoo my name on his buttock ever since we got married, so he decided to do a henna one on his shoulder for now, so he can get the feel of it before committing to the real thing.  So on Friday afternoon at 4 pm, we arrived in the breezy parlour of the resort, and was greeted by a friendly local lady in her Muslim gear, about 35 years old who would be our body artist for the next hour or so.  We were both dressed up somewhat as we were going to supper at the Seacliff Hotel in dar es Salaam, courtesy a lovely Indian family who invited us after Kobus assisted them with some advice with their dairy farm close by.  This meant we did not come home first, as the ferry queue meant we had to dash from getting the tattoos, across the ferry, to the hotel to get there on time for dinner.

Firstly she made a funnel from rolled plastic, making a tube similar to the ones you would make when you ice a cake.  Then she scooped her henna mixture into it, snipped the tip and started to paint.  And my word, was she masterful!!  We were astounded!  I took loads of photos, much to the masseuse’s delight who sat down on the floor as well, and took in the whole ceremony with us.  Kobus got my name on his shoulder, but to our dismay, it was not nearly as crafty as my designs – she is obviously not used to writing names, or perhaps doing it on men’s bodies!!

A traditional Samoan male tattoo from the wais...

A traditional Samoan male tattoo from the waist to below the knees seen from the side and back. Русский: Татау — древняя татуировка Самоа Gagana Samoa: Le tatau Samoa Français : Le tatau (ou pe’a), le tatouage masculin de Samoa, complété par des outils traditionnels. Deutsch: Tattoo von Samoa Māori: Ta moko mo tane no Hamoa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once done, we paid the princely sum of about $40 for three tattoos, and left for the evening out.  By now the henna was drying and flaking off, with small flakes falling down my cleavage and into Kobus’s pants!  But to my horror, the design on my leg, although masterfully done, looked totally over the top and hideous.  And Kobus was not at all impressed with his “artwork”.  The only beautiful piece is the smaller one on my chest – small and dainty.  And herein then lies the lesson for us.  Unlike David Beckham, Angelina Jolie etc, we have discovered that we really do not like huge tattoos at all.  Apparently the recently divorced Katie Holmes (ex Mrs Tom Cruise), has brought the friendship with the Beckhams to a halt by proclaiming that she hates tattoos – or so I read in my Middle Eastern Hello Magazine just this morning!

I will not have that second tattoo ever, Belinda went on and had the most beautiful butterfly added on her lower tummy, and finally a lovely, ornate “B” in the nape of her neck under her hairline on her back.  And Kobus??  Well he still seems to want to show his eternal love for me by having my name, albeit much smaller, inked on his buttock when we go down to Cape Town again.

What we did not know, is that you need to bath before you get into bed on the day of getting your tattoo – we did not, as we bathed before we went for the tattoo and then supper, and needless to say, we woke up to a black stained bed, and little flakes everywhere, even on the tiled floor.  I have washed and washed and hope it will eventually wash out as will the tattoos – thank goodness they are not real!!

I would love to hear your tattoo stories – do tell!

About suletta

Fell in love again at age 50! And followed my man to Zanzibar, for him to set up a dairy farm. I managed to travel into Africa a few times in my life, always loving it and experience the "fever" that grips you on African soil - the one that especially the Europeans now and in years gone by, suffer from. Except I am an African by birth - a South African. A Mzungu.So I discovered at this late stage in my life (not that I feel old!) that some people find my babblings about life interesting, and I quote: "live their lives vicariously through me".
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3 Responses to To Tattoo or not To Tattoo – that’s the question..

  1. danniehill says:

    I really like this post, Suletta. Something that struck me funny– could be the dipstick in me– and please tell Kobus not to get… upset. But, I thought, Nothing says love like a tattoo on the butt! Tell him to put it where others can see or just whisper in your ear once a day and profess his love.

    I think in most countries, with the exception of the Pacific Islands, body art is viewed in a negative way by the majority.
    Me, I got my first, and only, at the ripe age of 58. A cross over my heart. I guess I’ve always wanted a tattoo but was worried it might effect my employment status.

    I also think henna is a great, great idea and anyone thinking about some giant, portion of the skin being permenantly changed forever should try it.

    I really enjoy your outlook and style of writing, Suletta. Kobus is quite the lucky fellow, with or without a stamp of love!

  2. suletta says:

    Danny, thanks for all the witty comments, and no, Kobus tells me at least 10 times a day that he loves me, and mostly very audible, not even just a whisper in my ear..:-)

    Keep reading and keep sending your comments.

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