Tattoos. The mark of criminals, undesirables, subcultures, and anti-socials. Usually not something a kid raised in a middle-class suburban environment should ever aspire to be getting. Becoming active in the Metal, Goth and Punk scenes in my teens exposed me to seeing tattoos up close and I made the decision that one day I too would have my own. That “one day” turned out to be around 20 years later as even though there were plenty of good tattoo artists around in South Africa, none of their styles resonated with me enough to commit to permanently putting their art onto my skin.

It was not until I started using Instagram that I discovered the traditional tattoo and blackwork (tattoos done only with black ink) communities, and I finally felt that I was ready to put the needle to the skin. The catch however was that all of these artists were in other countries, but as a fully remote working digital marketing consultant I made the decision to travel to these artists and collect their art and traditions using my skin as their canvas.

Many hours were spent online scrolling through the vast number of artists and tattoo studios, each time discovering ones I liked more than the previous. But there were those artists I always came back to look at, the ones who had me in awe of their skills and artistic vision. Those are the artists who I eventually chose to visit. Sometimes the booking process was easy, sometimes I had to book a year in advance, sometimes the journey to the artist was challenging, but every session was a learning experience about myself and the culture of wherever I ended up. Many friends were made along the way, and many life lessons were learnt. I am eternally grateful to be experiencing this journey of ink.

Photo: Durga at the first Ethnic Tattoo Festival in Poland

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