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“In my culture, tattoos are seen as a bad thing”

Tattoos are quickly becoming a mainstream phenomenon in our western society. They have been an expression of beauty and art since ancient Egypt, and even before that.They are also part of many tribal traditions all over the world. Despite their widespread use, tattoos have always caused controversy. Chase photographer and blogger Trudy Kazangu noticed that especially in African families, inked skin is still heavily frowned upon. So she decided to have a chat and photo shoot with Selene and Miquy. They share their experiences as tattooed black women.

Tekst en foto's door Trudy Kazangu.

Selene: I’m a 22-year-old Advertising and Graphic Design student.I live and study in Brussels, and I really love it. I have 11 tatoos, and I’ve been into tattoos since I was 16 years old. I started out with ear stretchers back then, because you can’t get tattoos until you’re 18 in Belgium, not without permission from your parents anyway. When I became 18, I got my first tattoo. It was quite a big piece, in retrospect. I did it without my parents’ permission. I was a pretty rebellious young lady back then.

In my culture, tattoos are seen as a bad thing

I grew up in a traditional African family. In my culture, tattoos are seen as a bad thing, it is really frowned upon. Especially with women. African parents fear that their children will be judged and marginalised for their ink.They think that a tattooed body and a pierced face leads to unemployment. I’ve had no problems in that regard. They have to understand that times have changed. It’s not like that anymore.

Miquy: I’m a 30-year-old visual merchandiser for H&M. I have 18 tattoos. I will probably never run into any problems regarding my tattoos in my field of work. In the world of fashion, tattoos and piercings are the most common thing, they’re a part of the scene. I got interested in tattoos when I was 22 years old, but didn’t get any until two years later. My first tattoo was the word “Shawshank”, a reference to the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”. I had it put on the inside of my forearm, a very discreet spot.

I still do feel the eyes on me when I walk in the street

I grew up in a religious African family and i’ve always been a bit of an outcast. They used to condemn me for my ink, but I guess they got used to it eventually. It doesn’t seem to bother them anymore. I still do feel gazing eyes when I walk through the street. I don’t know if they are admirative or neglectful, but either way, I’m fine with it. I think people are just intrigued, because my look does stand out in the streets. I’m a black woman with a shaved head, tattoos on my body and a piercing in my nose. I should expect to be noticed.

The most important thing in the tattoo world is to absolutely not follow any trends. Trendy pieces are neither timeless nor personal. You should get a tattoo because you really want it, not because others have one like it. Just be yourself.






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