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Fashion Goes Awry As Tattoos Take Centre Stage
Published Sep 24, 2022 IN Column, SATURDAY COVER,
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JIM Rohn once said, ‘’we must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment’’.

In 2006, Nigerian hip-hop artist, Chibuzor Oji, by the stage name Faze Alone, released a hit track titled ‘’Tattoo Girls’’ as part of his sophomore album— Independent. Some 16 years later, the song has continued to command its fair share of attention from audiophiles across the globe.

Beyond whatever must have inspired Faze’s lyrics, is our interest in understanding the growing trend of tattooing in today’s society. Adorning several parts of the body, from the obscene to the seen, these bodily badges have become part of a thriving style, as it were.

In a special survey conducted by our correspondents (using online statistical methods) where 26 respondents were randomly sampled from multiple ethnic groups and religions, 53.85 per cent of them admitted to admiring tattoos on other people’s bodies, while 38.46 per cent of them had fantasized about having tattoos. 60 per cent of them claimed to be restricted from having tattoos by their religion while the customs/traditions of 88.46 per cent do not frown at tattooing. However beautiful these tattoos may appear on others, 57.69 per cent think that they (tattoos) may be harmful to the skin whereas 56 per cent would not allow their spouses to have one. But what are tattoos and why have they become popular?

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, tattoos which are the permanent marking or designing of the body by the introduction of pigments through ruptures in the skin have been practiced across almost all cultures of the world. Cate Lineberry, in her article titled ‘’Tattoos: The Ancient and Mysterious History’’ and published in the Smithsonian Magazine, traced the origin of tattoos to some 5, 200 years ago.

For a professor of Sociology and Dean of Social Sciences at the Dennis Osadebe University (DOU) Asaba, Ndukaeze Nwabueze, tattoos in Africa could be traced to a much earlier form of bodily modifications- --tribal marks. According to the scholar, these tribal markings served purposes of cultural identity during the era of intertribal wars and slave raids.

Prof Nwabueze contended that these body markings were also part of cultural initiation rites into adulthood. In some parts of Delta State, the ‘Ise-Ego’ ceremony is performed as the last of other rites among maidens as the community’s approval for marriage.

However, with the coming of globalization, these tribal markings appear to have become unpopular. As Prof Nwabueze put it, ‘’tribal marks have their pejorative connotations and this same thing applies to tattoos with a little difference’’.

Without dwelling so much on the earliest history of the trend, Prof Nwabueze narrowed his concern to the 80s when tattoos gain popularity among hip-hop artists in the West. ‘’Then, it was like a fad in that subculture but it did not spread like the music or other accompaniments. There was resistance to it’’.

He supposed that the resistance to the reception of tattoos could have been the unwillingness of the public to experiment beyond certain limits, fears of the unknown, or even religion. ‘’Recently, there is a surge in the wearing of tattoos among celebrities but it has not yet been generally accepted in society. It is still more among youths.

‘’Once some of these very influential celebrities introduce a trend, it spreads like wildfire but people are still skeptical about tattoos’’ he said. On the correlation between tattoos and crime, Prof Nwabueze opined that ‘’it is subjective’’. He noted that the majority of those who wear tattoos do it on parts of their bodies that are not exposed to public glare.

‘’You can imagine a 70-year-old with tattoos, the fellow might not look as presentable because the skin would be wrinkled. It is hardly done by elders and those who carried it on to their old ages because it was permanent might have reconsidered their choices.

‘’Tattoos also serve as a rite of passage in many cult groups. However, many of them draw tattoos on parts of their bodies that are covered. A few could be bold enough to do the tattoos on parts of their bodies that are visible but at such a level, they feel that they have nothing to lose’’ Prof Nwabueze said.

Other reasons have been advanced on why people wear tattoos. Kat Von once said, “I am a canvas of my experiences, my story is etched in lines and shading, and you can read it on my arms, my legs, my shoulders, and my stomach.”

Mr. Samuel Timothy, like Von, is a proud bearer of a tattoo on his arm, and he has this to say; ‘’AKP is the name of my grandfather whom I stayed with before I travelled from Nigeria to South Africa and when I was away, I heard that my grandfather died and due to distance and financial problems, I could not come to Nigeria for his funeral. I drew his name on my right hand to always remember him because he loved me more than my father and mother. AKP is a memorial tattoo for my late grandfather.

‘’The other tattoo ‘Timtech’ is my brand name because I specialize in technology- Web design and website creation. Timtech is my brand name and also my registered company name. I opened my first shop in 2008 and it was called. Timtech International. My dad gave me the name ‘Timtech’ when I was younger. My tattoos are unique and incredible. I love them so much and people love them, although some illiterate people think badly of people who have tattoos. Mine are attractive and unique’’.

For Mrs. Sandra Egwu, who spoke from Abuja, ‘’I love adventures and I love trying new things. It makes me feel good whenever I remember that I have one hidden tattoo’’. The mother of two lovely children also thinks that she might get another tattoo soon, just as she has two ear piercings.

A tattoo artist who spoke to our correspondent in Asaba said that it would cost at least N30, 000 to get a tattoo, depending on several other factors. The anonymous tattooist opined that skin diseases and other contractions from tattoos were the resultant effects of using an unsterilized pin. He contended that ‘’once the pin has been burned with fire, issues will not arise but if you want to be 100 per cent sure, you can pay extra for a new pin’’.

Dr. Enovwo Omatighene is a dermatologist at the Delta State University Teaching Hospital DELSUTH, Oghara. When contacted, she said that various reasons underline people’s choices in life as it concerns tattoos. ‘’some people choose to tattoo the name or picture of the person that they love, while others might just do it as a fashion statement’’ she said.

Tattoos, according to Dr. Omatighene, might also be deeper than we think. ‘’Tattoos could also have this sexual appeal. Some men need to see certain symbols or pictures to reach an orgasm. So, the tattoo is not just what we think; it goes into the mental, and emotional realms. It can be beyond the physical’’.

Do tattoos hurt the skin? Dr. Omatighene says ‘’people who have a family history of allergies, could come down with allergic reactions from tattoos. Once upon a time, I came across a patient who complained of allergies. However, I couldn’t find the trigger until I examined the patient and discovered that he/she had a tattoo that was made of a permanent dye and that was what triggered the dermatological issue’’.

For those aspiring to get a tattoo, the dermatologist advised that such individuals should be convinced within themselves why they want to get a tattoo. ‘’What is your reason? You have to know why you want to get it (tattoo). Will it make you happy, will it give you psychological stability? You must know your family medical history.

‘’Patients who have a medical history of allergies are advised not to do tattoos. When an individual is not physically healthy, he has to see the reason not to do it. Most of them that I have spoken with in the past saw reasons that they should not do tattoos’’ she advised.

Other dermatological concerns associated with tattoos include keloids, MRI complications, and blood-borne diseases such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), hepatitis B and hepatitis C. A piece of warning, as quoted on mayoclinic.org ‘’before you get a tattoo, think carefully about it. If you’re unsure or worried that you might regret it, give it more time. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into getting a tattoo, and don’t get a tattoo if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs’’.

Meanwhile, a girl who spoke to our correspondent under the conditions of anonymity, said that why she got her tattoo because of peer pressure. According to our respondent, all her friends did tattoos and she wanted to feel among so she had to do the same.

Unfortunately, she said she regretted her decision because it has shattered her relationship with her mum as they do not discuss or feel close as before. When asked how she knew the tattoo was responsible for the strain in the relationship, the daughter said that her mother expressed serious disappointment the day she saw the tattoo on her body.

‘’I had to tell my mother that there was no way that I could remove it and after a lot of shouting for some days, she calmed down but she does not discuss with me like that and she always sees me as an embarrassment’’ she said. Sadly, she has severed friendships with those who had influenced her to get the tattoo; but the tattoo has remained.

Another anonymous respondent said he found it (tattoo) pleasing to him. When asked if his parents knew about his tattoo, he said that his mother was aware but she does not have a problem and she does everything to hide it from his dad because ‘’if my dad got to know, they would be problem’’.

An anonymous parent was also interviewed on his opinion about tattoos. ‘’I do not like tattoos. Also, it is biblically not approved for Christians’’ he said. He stressed that he would not want any of his children to draw a tattoo because it does not connote anything good. After all, society condemns it. When asked his reaction should any of his children decide to get a tattoo in adulthood, he sounded confident that none of his children would do such as he has taught them about the Bible. He added that he constantly educates his children on how they can always overcome vices.

‘’Most people who draw tattoos on their bodies do so to follow trends without even knowing the implications. Tattoos can be infectious to the body because they are made of chemicals and anything made of chemicals is not good for the body’’.

Experts have warned that ‘’you could be the proud owner of a new tattoo in a matter of hours — but don’t let the ease of the process stop you from thinking carefully about permanent body art. Before you get a tattoo, make sure you know what’s involved and how to reduce the possible risks’’. Some of the risks, both physical and psychological, have been exposed in this study. We believe that while mistakes may have been made, lessons have also been learned and the decision to take another tattoo, either for fashion-sake or other acts of adoration, should be given a second thought. ‘’We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us’’ warned Lucy Montgomery.

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