The Tattoo Taboo

I got my first tattoo when I was 18 years old. Frankly, I did it out of rebellion; an immature way of asserting my independence to my mother whom at the time was incredibly strict and raised me to believe that things like tattoos were a taboo.Tattoo - a picture or design made on someone’s body by pricking small holes in the skin and filling them with indelible dye. In some ancient tribes, tattoos symbolized a an artful display of beauty. However, what is considered to be art or beauty is considered by others as disgusting and unsightly.

Having a tattoo places you in a box with many of society’s castoffs. What is remarkable is, because people do not understand why someone would choose to have a tattoo, they find it easier to shun it rather than try to respect the persons individualism. As I grew older, what started as an act of rebellion transformed into something deeper. I added to the artful designs on my body . Each addition symbolizing an emotion I was going through at the time. This may sound strange because some people find it hard to  understand why one would mark their body because of a temporary feeling.  Others like me,  think differently; maybe we are more emotional. We tattoo  the name of a lover or a family member on our body.  Sometimes we ink a name on our bodies in sacred remembrance of a lost one.

I have spent over 9 years inking my body. At times, I retouch an old tattoo. Other times, I add to an existing one. I am not addicted to the pain, i just find tattoos artistic and mesmerizing to look at.  People do not understand how hard it is to have the courage and confidence to do what makes you …well… you. Now that I have an enormous tattoo proudly displayed on my back, I feel the cynicism of people peering through me; their eyes scan over me like a piece of furniture they would not place in their home.  This affects your love life, your friendships and even relationship with family members. Everyone has an opinion. I was once in a queue, waiting to pay for a loaf of bread when I overhead strangers scoffing about how demoralizing it is to have a tattoo. Clearly they had no empathy for the tattooed person standing directly in front of them.

Many religious people have attacked me based on the principles of the Bible. They say God gave me my body and that I should never mark it. I have been in church and I have felt so ashamed of my body that I had to cover myself up.Does having tattoo make God love me less? Does having a tattoo make me a bad person or a bad wife? NO! Does having a tattoo inhibit me from studying  to be great at a profession or stop me from being an incredible woman? NO! Even, when you fall in love, you know that the fact that you have a tattoo could jeopardize your chances of marrying the person.  No matter who you are inside; no matter how good you are, the world will always judge a book by its cover. No matter how we evolved we are as people, we still do not understand that every individual is different. The fact that they have an appreciation of things that turn you off should not make them a target of negative press.

When I look at my body, I see beauty. My Creator who knows the depth of my soul, knows that I do not ink my body because I am ashamed of it in anyway. God knows that the art on my body is a reflection of the beauty, and rich creativity that I feel inside.  

Written by Tasharna Stewart
Photographed by Ayo Art

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  1. Lovely piece Tasharna; very deep!! 

  2. Africans are especially judgemental of people of who have tattoos. They automatically assume you are a bad girl if you have a tattoo.

  3. The funny thing is that the person with the tatoo might be the best wife, mother and person there is;  but society will choose the non tatoed individual and later find that their  nature to  represent the devil himself. but tat or no tat one will always find someone who loves you just the way you are, a true beautiful  soul!

  4. my mom used to say it is a mark of the devil… till my brother got one and she realised she had to change her opinions otherwise  he was doomed for hell like she said lol

    She has now come around the idea of tats although ideally she would rather not promote it but if u have one then don't get more (her words) lol

    Times have changed and with time perceptions are changing as well. I cant wait to get to the time where people will be judged by their work not their looks

  5. Lucy that is hilarious. mark of the devil. I know there are many more people who think along the same lines.

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