The Anthropology of the Tattoo Essay


Ethnography, derived from the Grecian word ‘ethnos’ merely put is a field of survey of a company, a people or a state ( Encyclopedia Britannica 2015 ) .

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An ethnographer, better known as a research worker, should be engrossed with his chosen field of work for long periods and be an eager perceiver and participant by life or disbursement clip with his capable thereby sing their manner of life. In so making, he is able to convey from his personal experience, the beginning, the method and eventually, the consequences of his surveies to society ( Quora 2015 ) .

Ethnography has many different signifiers and two of the most popular being realist and the other critical. Whilst the realist ethnographer research is an nonsubjective survey of the state of affairs, it normally is conducted from a 3rd person’s position roll uping information and information from people on site. The critical ethnographer is normally one interested in research of a political nature and normally takes a base in the signifier of resistance, easy understood by manner of illustration, that being, the survey of a school that provides privileges to certain types of pupils or issues of power, inequality etc ( University of Strathclyde 2015 ) .

My personal survey does non fall under one peculiar type as mentioned above, but tends to tilt closer to the realist ethnographer, but without obtaining informations from other people neither conveying my survey in the 3rd individual.

It has ever been of peculiar involvement to me to analyze the life behind the tattoo creative person and the presentation of his artistic creative activities and all the grounds as to how and why, was my involvement to take part in the survey of such individual and the civilization which led him to the career of tattoo creative person. My recent survey proved to be rather interesting as I entered into the personal life and behaviour of the adult male behind the tattoo and my being able to diagrammatically, physically and factually present my findings.

My primary aspiration was to detect the adult male I will name Alex, and carry on my survey within the scene of his existent residence which rather coincidently was lone metres off from where he conducts his day-to-day undertakings and in so making I was able to detect and enter behaviour forms within the work topographic point versus his private residence. In true holistic manner, the survey was conducted in such a manner, that it produced the most interesting portrayal conceivable and one no more memorable and interesting as that of my physical engagement, a reminder which will stay with me everlastingly.

I grew up, like many, believing that a tattoo was a grade worn by people who were unsmooth and tough, and it was a generalisation because in and amongst the tattooed and so called bad people were the good 1s excessively all of which chose to for good tag their organic structures with studies, marks and figures which meant small to the perceiver but much to the carrier. Amusing thing is, people are still really counter towards tattoos and it will stay as such for many old ages to come.

My mentality changed as I matured for the simple ground that the more tattoos I observed, the more it told me about the individual bearing it and those whom I had gotten to cognize better, the thought behind what inspired them to hold it done. The thought of lasting ink on your tegument in my sentiment ought to be a valid 1, as I smilingly acknowledge that most, if non all of us, at some clip have written on our custodies in ink, to remind us about something to make, and why was it non in pencil alternatively, because it had to be a ‘permanent’ reminder or the whole thought of composing in ink would hold been in vain.

And so with all this information, generalisation I decided to ship on a journey I wish to name ‘Ink Inc’ and its development which rather coincidently fell in line and in clip with this pick of essay. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune clip.

On the 12ThursdayMarch 2015, by anterior agreement, I stepped into a home which one time was a house and now, competently called a tattoo parlor. My old ideas of what a tattoo parlor looked like instantly changed as I entered the warm response country filled with furniture made up of expensive wood. On my right I saw the biggest array of images of tattoos hanging from a rail. There were 1000s runing from the smallest, 1 centimeter to the largest, large plenty to make full a adult man’s full trunk.

A corridor led me to two offprint suites which contained a bed, a chair, tubings of coloring material and tattoo equipment. The walls were adorned otherwise, clearly harmonizing to the likes of the tattoo creative person that worked there. I subsequently came to happen out, that the ground for the different manners of decor used in the suites was to do the creative person feel comfy in the environment in which he needed to bring forth his art. The infinite for the executing of this all right art is adequate to suit two people with one vision. At the far terminal, the cloakroom and kitchen and I recall walking back up the corridor to the response country to read something that had caught my oculus earlier. It was the proud enfranchisement passed by the Health Department corroborating that this tattoo parlor was run purely in conformity laid down by them, and so I understood instantly that the adult male I chose to detect, was really peculiarly wellness witting in the respects of his frequenters, and this in itself was a clear indicant of the pride he took in his work.

The adult male I choose to name Alex is of Italian and African decent ; a cultural combination, conveying two universes together, and both wholly equal in their ethnicity ( an cultural group ; a societal group that portions a common and typical civilization, faith, linguistic communication ( 2015 ) ) clearly seeable in this interesting adult male. One portion Renaissance, one portion African. Tall and reserved, olive skinned and ‘Rasta’ hair an instant mark of a adult male proud of his roots. His passion in going a tattoo creative person came from his genius for pulling said Alex. In between his travels between Africa and Italy, he became interested in farther educating himself in the field of tattoo, until eventually his household came to settle in South Africa and therefore the gap of his ain tattoo parlour. In an industry when tattoo was one time called tabu, it has been a gradual ascent, to now being one of the most sought after tattoo creative persons in the state. 15 old ages subsequently, Alex has eventually reached a end and practising a career that takes his yearss from forenoon into late dark engrossed in plants of art that will last a life-time.

Whilst sitting about waiting for the chance to watch art at work, Alex confirmed that the sample images of the tattoos hanging in the response country where for sing intents on the first visit merely and that one time a tattoo was chosen and thoughtfully considered, an assignment would be made to hold the tattoo done. I found this interesting as the idea of a walk in client desiring a tattoo off the sample image was non holding the tattoo done for any ground other than holding a tattoo. There shouldn’t truly hold to be any other ground other than to be ‘hip’ , but the general regulation would certainly be to for good tattoo something that holds a particular message for the carrier.

At this point, Alex confirmed the reaching of a particular friend who was coming in for a tattoo. I instantly asked if I could detect his work and he respectfully declined. As he did so, he led me to his studio, where the sound of Bob Marley was gently playing in the background, a clear indicant of his love for Rasta music and his vesture competently donned in adoration of a musical tradition. He told me he would let me to stand outside his studio and observe via a broad window which magnified and zoomed onto the tabular array where he worked. Alex was ready ; his organic structure relaxed and it echoed a stance of one confident within him and the undertaking at manus. I was able to watch, but without hearing conversation between the creative person and the client, I observed a bond develop as Alex stooped over to get down his art. It is in minutes such as these that personal conversation between Alex and his client leads to the grounds why a peculiar tattoo is being done, and more frequently than non, the client, apart from the hurting of holding the tattoo done, converses with Alex about personal issues. The societal dealingss, he mentioned earlier, were important ; a combination of trust, emotional support and a serious dedication, every bit much to the tattoo in inquiry as with the client.

But most significantly, Alex refuses a 3rd party in the studio for wellness grounds and how edifying would it be if all tattoo creative persons had this attack to their craft.

Hours subsequently, I eventually understood the significance of tattoo. The readying of the selected tattoo bill of exchanges copied onto the coveted portion of the organic structure, the disinfecting of the countries on which the tattoo had to be done, the placement of the client, the blending of colors which would eventually come to life ; the desire of one homo and the art and passion of the creative person. All this with the delicate buzzing sound of art in gesture.

By 4pm that afternoon an dog-tired Alex came out of his studio, pleased with his achievement and post-tattoo advice to the client, and while sipping on a cup of espresso, he asked what I thought about his concern, his work and if I had any other inquiries I would wish to inquire.

There were two inquiries, amongst others I asked him and I chose the simpler one of the two first. With hindsight, they were every bit of import and which would alter my mentality on life forever.

I asked him what his old client meant when he had the words ‘tempo perso’ tattooed on his arm and Alex replied without unwraping his client’s personal life, that it meant ‘lost time’ ; lost clip wasted on things that didn’t affair and a heartache for lost clip which will ne’er come back.

My 2nd inquiry was if Alex still had the energy to make one more tattoo. He grinned and asked me as though I were a new client, if I had thought about what I wanted tattooed really long and carefully and I replied I had.

I have a impression that everyone who has of all time been acute to hold a tattoo knows precisely what they want tattooed. It comes up in conversation, you google the image, you google the significance, or you merely have a personal study in your head that if of all time, it would be merely that.

He gently pushed me into his tattoo studio and started one time once more the processs I had witnessed legion times today. I all of a sudden felt a combination of exhilaration and fright take clasp of my senses. My thenar became sweaty and above my top lip, a visibly glittering shadow of sweat began to look. I tugged at my T-shirt, agitating it nervously to air out my organic structure leting air to defuse the lifting temperature that comes from fright, while my ears throbbed, both from my pulse and the reggae sounds of Bob Marley bawling, ‘is this love, is this love that I’m feeling.’ I don’t cognize if the words were meant for me, at the clip, but they were certainly meant for Alex so.

There is no other manner to depict the strength I felt at this civilization daze. The term civilization daze refers to a strong sense of freak out and an huge sense of anxiousness ( Carol Delaney, 2011 ) . From what society described it in the yesteryear as a no-no, to run intoing a maestro who creates art from thoughts in the heads of simple work forces and adult females, to a society who now accepts the tattoo as a mark of freedom of address via the physical imprint of the mute word, I felt it, I felt the rebellion in my ascendants stating me no, to the contradiction of my bosom stating me go, my tattoo was in advancement, and as the tip of the tattoo machine began to travel over my carpus, I knew I was making the right thing. I love my music, it is my salvaging grace on many difficult yearss and my tattoo will remind me of merely that, and for some ground I know, two words will come back to stalk me from this memorable twenty-four hours, ‘tempo perso’ , and yes, it will be a reminder to myself, that possibly one man’s ‘lost time’ , will be an unforgettable lesson for me today, and in old ages to come.

I learnt many things this twenty-four hours, but none more so than witnessing the passion of one man’s art, the message of a stranger’s hurting and the realisation that tattoos are non merely for the unsmooth and tough ; and that I have now, literally, fallen into the fantastic trap of the sweetest tabu!


Carol Delaney, 2011. Investigating Culture: An Experiential Introduction to Anthropology. 2 Edition. Wiley-Blackwell.

descriptive anthropology | Encyclopedia Britannica. 2015. descriptive anthropology | Encyclopedia Britannica. [ ONLINE ] Available at: hypertext transfer protocol: // [ Accessed 15 March 2015 ] .

What is an ethnographer? What do ethnographers believe about societal networking? – Quora. 2015. What is an ethnographer? What do ethnographers believe about societal networking? – Quora. [ ONLINE ] Available at: hypertext transfer protocol: // [ Accessed 15 March 2015 ] .

Ethnography – University of Strathclyde. 2015. Ethnography-University of Strathclyde. [ ONLINE ] Available at: hypertext transfer protocol: // . [ Accessed 14 March 2015 ] .

Ethnicity | Define Ethnicity at 2015. Ethnicity | Define Ethnicity at [ ONLINE ] Available at: hypertext transfer protocol: // [ Accessed 19 March 2015 ] .



When did you make up one’s mind that this was your coveted career?

My male parent had a great influence in my desire to go a tattoo creative person as he made certain that I visited the historical churches and edifices in Firenze to see the dramatic art contained within their walls. I knew I would ne’er be a painter, but shortly thenceforth, I knew I had a different sort of art in head.


Where did you larn your trade?

I trained with a adult male in Italy called Giuseppe who was a maestro tattooist. He refused to let me to tattoo until, after tattooing on fictile paper for months, he was satisfied that I had made the class, and my first, terrorization and yet most exciting minute in my life, was the tattoo I imprinted on my master’s organic structure.


Why tattooing in peculiar?

It is an art, it is a creative activity of person else’s phantasy, love or dream which merely I can recognize for them with these custodies.


What do you experience one time you have completed a tattoo undertaking?

I feel drained, but satisfied. I have been given the honor of writing/drawing a lasting message on the organic structure of a fellow human being. It is an entrustment which lasts a life-time.


Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Giuseppe of class, but without being excessively dramatic, my parents. A male parent with the traditional Italian genius of optimism and exuberance and my female parent who bears the natural beauty of vocal, dance and sounds of Africa. Together, they inspired me with their love for life.



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