Gone are the days when tattoos used to be spotted by bikers of the Hell’s Angels, boxers, long distance truck drivers, bouncers and other carefree, violent people, like that awful wrestler, Umaga.
I have come to notice that many Botswana women seem to love tattoos. They are not alone; celebrities and singers like Angeline Jolie, Amy Winehouse, Victoria Beckham, Lindsay Lohan and many others spot loud tattoos.
Just as adultery is not that interesting unless you can tell or brag about it to someone, the problem with tattoos, too, is that they have to be seen to be appreciated. But I have seen, accidentally, of course, some tattoos where even doctors would need parental, if not presidential, permission to view.
Most women, however, spot their tattoos on the buttocks, breasts, arm, thighs, back of the neck, chest and other places of interest, if you know what I mean.
But I have noticed Batswana ladies’ fixation with tattoos on the lower back just where the cheeks begin to go their separate ways. Also popular is the upper arm where we normally get our vaccinations done and, of course, between the breasts if not smack on the breast itself.
When used as a form of cosmetics, tattooing includes permanent makeup, and hiding or neutralizing skin discolourations.
“Permanent makeup are tattoos that enhance eyebrows, lips (liner and/or lipstick), eyes (liner), and even moles, usually with natural colours as the designs are intended to resemble makeup,” says Wikipedia.
It adds that tattoos have experienced a resurgence in popularity in many parts of the world, particularly in North America, Japan, and Europe. The growth in tattoo culture has seen an influx of new artists into the industry, many of whom have technical and fine art training. Coupled with advancements in tattoo pigments and the on-going refinement of the equipment used for tattooing, this has led to an improvement in the quality of tattoos being produced.
A tattoo, or dermal pigmentation, is “a mark made by inserting pigment into the skin for decorative or other reasons.”
Wikipedia says tattoos on humans are a type of decorative body modification, while tattoos on animals are most commonly used for identification or branding.
“Tattooing has been practiced worldwide. The Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, wore facial tattoos, as do some Maori of New Zealand to this day,” says Wikipedia. “Tattooing was widespread among Polynesian peoples, and among certain tribal groups in the Philippines, Borneo, Mentawai Islands, Africa, North America, South America, Mesoamerica, Europe, Japan, Cambodia, New Zealand and China. Despite some taboos surrounding tattooing, the art continues to be popular all over the world.”
In “Who knew Mommy has a tattoo?”, (Maine Sunday Telegram, November 19, 2006), Deb Acord says that the word “tattoo” is a borrowing of the Samoan word tatau, meaning to mark or strike twice (the latter referring to traditional methods of applying the designs).
The National Geographic says that tattoos arise from a rich cultural history dating back 5,000 years.
“The earliest record of tattoos, to date, was found in 1991 on the frozen remains of the Copper Age “Iceman” scientists have named ├ûtzi. His lower back, ankles, knees, and a foot were marked with a series of small lines, made by rubbing powdered charcoal into vertical cuts. X-rays revealed bone degeneration at the site of each tattoo, leading researchers to believe that ├ûtzi’s people, ancestors of contemporary central and northern Europeans, may have used tattoos as medical treatment to reduce pain.”
Wikipedia says that tattoos have served as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, punishment, amulets and talismans, protection, and as the marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts.
The symbolism and impact of tattoos varies in different places and cultures, sometimes with unintended consequences.
“Today, people choose to be tattooed for cosmetic, sentimental/memorial, religious, and magical reasons, and to symbolize their belonging to or identification with particular groups, including criminal gangs but also a particular ethnic group or law-abiding subculture.”
Some M?ori, for example, still choose to wear intricate moko (tattoos) on their faces while in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, the yantra tattoo is used for protection against evil and to increase luck.
Because it requires breaking the skin barrier, tattooing may carry health risks, including infection and allergic reactions. In the United States, for example, the Red Cross prohibits a person who has received a tattoo from donating blood for 12 months, unless the procedure was done in a state-regulated and licensed studio, using sterile technique.
That harmless little “innocent” tattoo may have a little secret hiding inside, says the Mayo Clinic on their website.
“Underneath that harmless tattoo is a very serious risk of acquiring a deadly blood-borne disease such as AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, tetanus, syphilis, tuberculosis and other blood-born diseases.”
An alarming research study recently published by Dr. Bob Haley and Dr. Paul Fischer at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas uncovered that the “innocent” commercial tattoo may be the number one distributor of hepatitis C.
The study was published in the journal Medicine (Haley RW, Fischer RP, Commercial tattooing as a potential source of hepatitis C infection, Medicine). Dr. Haley, a preventative medicine specialist and a former Center for Disease Control (CDC) infection control official, is exceptionally knowledgeable to prepare the study.
Dr. Haley concludes, “We found that commercially acquired tattoos accounted for more than twice as many hepatitis C infections as injection-drug use. This means it may have been the largest single contributor to the nationwide epidemic of this form of hepatitis.”
There has also been an outburst of controversy in the past few months.
Sarah Freeland, writing for EzineArticles.com, says that in the state of California, two major manufacturers of tattoo ink “were accused of exposing people to dangerous levels of lead and other metals.”
It was revealed then that major concerns of high levels of lead in tattoo pigment include: increase in blood pressure, fertility problems, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, irritability and memory or concentration problems.
However, before you get yourself a tattoo, you must spare a moment to also think of what to do when you “outgrow” your desire to carry around a tattoo because, as singer Jimmy Buffet sings, tattoos are “a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.”
Removing a tattoo is another big job on its own.
Experts say that while tattoos are considered permanent, it is possible to remove them.
However, they maintain that complete removal, however, may not be possible (although many doctors and laser practitioners make the claim that upwards of 95% removal is possible with the newest lasers, especially with black and darker coloured inks), and the expense and pain of removing them typically will be greater than the expense and pain of applying them.
An on-line information website says tattoo removal is most commonly performed using lasers that react with the ink in the tattoo, and break it down.
“The broken-down ink is then absorbed by the body, mimicking the natural fading that time or sun exposure would create. This technique often requires many repeated visits to remove even a small tattoo, and may result in permanent scarring.”
All in all, however, one should think very carefully before they get a tattoo because once done, the ‘scar’ remains for life. Even if the tattoo is eventually removed, there will still remain some tale-tale signs on the part of the skin.