HomeLocal NewsTattoo craze hits Zimbabwe

Tattoo craze hits Zimbabwe


It is 9:30am and scores of youths are gathered at Avondale Shopping Centre waiting to have a “surgical operation”.

In Zimbabwe and the world over, fashion enthusiasts have embraced tattoos which seem to be going in and out of fashion over time and many people especially youths have undergone such surgical operations.

Tattoos are defined as markings made by inserting ink into the skin to change the pigment for decorative purposes, among other reasons.

Though practised at a low level locally in the past, it has been documented the practice has been alive in certain parts of the world since time immemorial.

Tattooing has various meanings and uses by various peoples across the world. However, tattoos are primarily used for cosmetic, sentimental or religious reasons.

“Tattoos have been preferred as a form of identification, especially in incarcerative set-ups, as the tattoo pigment is buried deep within the skin and is usually not destroyed even by severe burns,” said Margret Nyathi, a cultural archivist based in Harare.

Keisha De Sousa from Craneborne said for her, the skin markings were a form of identity: “I don’t need to tell people who I am. One can clearly identify me by merely looking at my body.”

She added that while some tattoos were used to convey medical information such as the blood group of the wearer, hers were meant to express specific aspects of her identity.

She said tattoos were also a mark of beauty: “My body used to be dull before I got tattooed. So as an up-town lady I had to decorate and modify it with tattoos as it has now enhanced my looks.”

She added that a variety of big, small and body-covering tattoos with different designs and colours were available in studios.

“But some time people choose symbolic designs which might turn to be a mismatch later when its time frame has expired,” she said.

Observers attributed the popularity of tattoos in Zimbabwe to the compression of the world into a global village.

“Cultural erosion is one of the effects of globalisation. Zimbabweans, especially youths, are taking foreign cultures without knowing what some of these artefacts mean.

This is because for the past few years they have been subjected to daily dosage of foreign media materials,” said Tichaona Nyore of Glen Norah.

Foreign artists — especially musicians — have also contributed to the popularity of tattoos.
“The coming to Zimbabwe of popular celebrities from European countries’ most of them tattooed, whom local youths idolise, has resulted in an influx of tattoo artists.

They are making a killing from local people who are mimicking their favourite artists.”

Local tattoo artist are charging between $3 and $25 for temporary tattoos; $15 to $225 for permanent ones depending on their sizes and shapes
Historically, tattoos were considered an important aspect of pop culture and even of certain mafias.

With these negative connotations, some religious people consider tattooing as a pagan or heathen activity.

“I think tattoos fall into the group of disputable matters in the Bible,” said Pastor Farai Gwenhure, Takeback the World Ministries. He cited Leviticus 19:28 which says: “Do not cut your body for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.”

Gwenhure said if one was considering having tattoos, they had to ask themselves whether or not they were glorifying God or drawing attention to themselves.

Diana Simango, a tattoo artist, said: “The process of tattooing does not take up much time owing to modern equipment that we now use. Usually we use an electric tattoo machine which comes with several needles.

Small tattoos may take 15 minutes to be completed, but larger and more complex tattoos with multi-faceted patterns and multiple pigments may need several sessions ranging over hours.”

However, she said this was different when traditional methods, which involved metallic needles and pigments that are inserted into the skin were employed. Dyes and pigments used in tattoos include inorganic materials like titanium dioxide, iron oxides and azo dyes or their mixtures.

Simango took a swipe at unfounded reports that tattooing can leave clients with contagious infections.

“Like any other business ours is done overboard. Usually a well-equipped tattoo studio uses bio-hazard containers for objects that come into contact with blood or other body fluids, sharp objects and functional sterilising equipment.

“Tattoo artists usually open sterilised or disposable needles and equipment in the client’s presence to assure the later of safety standards. And the materials are disposed of soon after the ‘operation’.”

Some countries require that the tattoo artists be licensed and approved to operate in a licensed facility.

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