Humans have been adorning their bodies with art to seek expresion to their inner groove for centuries now. Permanent and temporary alike, people have adorned their bodies in different ways. Originally for tribal ceremonies and signifying social classes, body art has now become common in the mainstream culture. When it comes to choosing a canvas for art more people are turning to their own bodies. The blank space provided by the human body has become a perfect medium for both the artist and the admirer. The drive to find new ways of self-expression invariably leads to people to consider more exotic body art forms. In a world of technology and increasing self-awareness, the only limitation for expression through body art is individual imagination. Body art is regarded as a taboo by most cultures and some individuals despise the idea of body art and reject the claim that body art as a result of artistic expression. “Tattooing in Namibia has become popular and clients come in as rolling stones depending at the time of the month mostly the youth aged between 18 and 35,” revealed Sean Newman, a tattoo artist.
Most people still prefer tattoos even though they are not considered particularly unacceptable. However, just like beauty the perception of what constitutes acceptance lies within the eyes of the beholder. “People do tattoos for a purpose. Religious beliefs, cultural heritage, memorial reasons, passionate about something while for some it is for the love of art and simply looking fancy,” expressed Newman.
It comes in different ways…
Henna is a form of a temporary way to adorn the skin with designs that will fade within a month. It is done by using the henna plant and mixing it with simple ingredients to create a paste that will stain the skin. It has been used in many cultures and religions. They can both be on any age and pure henna tattoos are the safest form of body art known. Transfer tattoos were initially placed as prizes in snack package and have continued their climb in mainstream culture. These types of tattoos are not only used amongst children, but even in the entertainment industry to mimic the appearance of real tattoos. Airbrush tattoos started in amusement parks and fairs and quickly became a fun souvenir to get done. An artist applies a stencil and using a specialised airbrush and ink to create a realistic looking tattoo that could last up to three to five days.
Glitter tattoos are the most recently developed and latest trend in tattoos. Cosmetic glitter has been used in other ways as hair sprays, make up and even some lotions have glitter in them. Glitter tattoos are done by applying a stencil- a thin layer of skin safe glue and glitter. These can last up to seven days of longer in some cases. They are waterproof, so without actively trying to remove it they can stay for quite a while.
Women are more likely to have tattoos done on their ankles, wrists and lower backs. Men typically get tattoos done on their shoulders, legs, chest and backs. Tattoos come in all shapes and sizes from small ones to full body tattoos. Their popularity in body arts continues to grow and shows no sign of slowing down
Branding and scarification are the most dramatic forms as they both involve more intense methods than tattooing or piercing for the designs to become permanent. Branding was initially created to brand cattle to identify their owner. In later years it was used to mark slaves and criminals. Now it has reinvented to be a form of self-expression. It causes a more dramatic and permanent mark on the skin without the colour one gets with a tattoo. Many have ink of their names, organisations or crew to symbolize a sign of belief or origin. Artist Gazza says his tattoo ‘I am a 467’ is his identity. “It is code of confidence and strength for what I believe in.”
Think before you draw…
Some people embrace body art as a form of personal expression, using their body as a canvas to tell a story that their words simply cannot capture or perhaps to memorialise a friend or loved ones passing. Everyone has their own personal meanings attached to their tattoos but there are also some meanings behind a huge assortment of different arts. Butterflies are believed to symbolise a metamorphosis, change, rebirth and beauty whereas lions are seen as a source of strength, courage and protection. Gazza has four tattoos each conveying a different message. “I have a tattoo on my shoulder with the names of the people that have passed away that I really hold dear to my heart just so that I can carry them with me everywhere I go. It reads I will miss you more,” stated the award winning artist. Body piercing may cause staph infections and contact dermatitis which is picked up from the nickel composition of the piercing jewelry. Dermatitis is an allergic reaction which does not allow the pierced area to heal properly causing the skin to fester, swell and become sore. However, Newman advises that people take good care of the art during the healing process. “Remember that when something is well taken care of, good results show. The ointment that I prescribe for my clients to use after a tattoo is done is the red zambok,” added Newman.
Whether permanent or temporary, people have been decorating their bodies for centuries. It is a unique and creative way to express ones culture or oneself in whatever form they choose. They all show individuality in whatever way they choose. Newman further advice that the youth make informed choices before they do body art. “Do research about the design that you want. Once an art is done there is no turning point. Although there can be a cover up, it may be might cost an arm and a leg. Be sure of the artist’s profile to know what you are getting yourself into,” he added. Body art is a personal choice and there are many reasons people choose to do it. It can make a real statement about who you are, but it is important to be clear about your reasons for getting body art and know how to get body art that doesn’t harm your health.