Tattoos in modern times

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tattoos in modern times
Like a viable seed, buried and forgotten, but which patiently waited for the right time and the right combination of the necessary elements of growth, tattoos in recent times, have seen a huge resurgence. For example, many studies have been conducted on the population and societies of tattoos wearers. In June 2006, for instance, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published the results of a survey conducted in 2004. The results revealed that 36 per cent of Americans within the age bracket 18-29, 24% of those in the range 30-40 and 15% of those in 41-51 age class wore tattoos.
Another research revealed that 9% of those in the 18-24 age range, 32% of those in 25-29 age range, 25% of those in 30-39 group and 12% of those that belonged to the 40-49 age group as well as 8% of those in 50-64 group had tattoos. Generally, the highest incidence of tattoos was found among the bisexual, lesbians and gays (homosexual). Also, some other statistics show that men are slightly more likely to wear tattoos than women (15% as against 13% respectively).
The resurgence of tattoos is not limited to the US alone, rather, there has been a remarkable increase in the population of those wearing one form of tattoo or the other in different parts of the world. Apart from North America (which has the highest number of people wearing tattoos), a high resurgence exists in South America, Japan and Europe. This wind of body art is gradually blowing into Africa where, as expected, Nigeria is not left out.
Types of tattoos
According to experts in the field of body arts, tattoos are of two types: Temporary and Permanent. As indicated by its name, temporary tattoos are mainly drawings and other art works drawn on people’s skins, and which are washed off within a short time.
Temporary tattoos are primarily made with some  kinds of inks on the surface of people’s skins, and during normal activities like bathing, swimming, application of creams and lotions on the body, sweating, or even staying under the sun, they would wash off on their own.
Permanent tattoos, on the other hand, are made in such a way that they can last a whole life time or for many years. This is because permanent tattoos, unlike the temporary ones, are made as a result of the insertion of colour pigments inside the skin (in the dermis layer) with the aid of some special needles and equipment.
In a conversation with the Nigerian Tribune, a tattoo specialist and expert, Mr. Akinsanya Oladayo, the Managing Director of Prosperity Tattoos, in Ibadan, who has been in the business of tattooing for about seven years said, “tattoos are means by which human beings express certain emotions bottled up in them. Every tattoo bears a message.”
Initially, tattoos were supposedly reserved exclusively for gangsters, criminals, drug peddlers, cultists and people who were generally involved in different kinds of social vices, but nowadays, people who live normal lives, and who do not engage in any form of social vices go for tattoos. It is now not uncommon to find popular artistes, sportsmen and sportswomen, actors and actresses, as well as students all across the world wearing one form of tattoo or the other.
Concerning the category of people who are associated with tattoos, Mr. Akinsayo Oladayo had this to say: “Contrary to what many people believe, tattoos are not worn by criminals, thugs, gangsters or prisoners alone, rather, a lot of responsible people who do not engage in any form of criminal activities go for tattoos.” He further said, “Many of my customers are doctors and nurses, while many bankers, due to their tight work schedule, come to me for permanent make-ups.”
He claimed that some spouses even encourage their partners to come for tattoos. For instance, according to him, ladies often come to him for tattoos because their partners want them to have them.
Most times, tattoos are worn in conspicuous parts of human bodies, like arms, faces, legs, wrists, chests, etc, however, in some instances (and it is also becoming common), many people, for whatever reasons best known to them, prefer to be tattooed in some very private and secluded parts of their bodies. This kind of attitude is often excused on the pretext that tattoos are meant for adults who are at least 18 years of age, and as such, are mature enough to determine what to do with their lives and bodies.
Many who wear tattoos often have different things depicted through them. This could be tribal marks, some simple works of nature such as butterflies, flowers or stars, as well as pictures depicting emotions of love or hate, which could be in the form of the human heart. There are also religious items which are also often tattooed on people’s bodies. Some common religious tattoos include pictures of crucifix, angels, passages from the Bible, pictures of hands clasped in prayers, etc.
A young man, by the name Adetoro Oluwasegun, who has been wearing certain religious tattoos for about five years, when speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, said that he loved wearing tattoos. “I did not go for tattoos because of any kind of pressure. I decided to be tattooed because I love tattoos,” he declared, adding that,
“It is a general misconception that tattoos are meant for criminals or those who engaged in evil acts alone. I have been with tattoos for close to five years, and I can sincerely tell you that I am a responsible citizen of Nigeria.” He added that he had even encouraged his brother to be  tattooed as well, since his brother knows that  he (Oluwasegun) is not a criminal.
In the opinion of a young lady who had tattoos in some conspicuous parts of her body, and who spoke with the Nigerian Tribune on a condition of anonymity, tattoos are meant to do three major things: to beautify, attract and bear a message.
“Everyone wants to be seen, admired and appreciated; tattoos, depending on their type and quality, can be used to achieve all these. My own tattoo are meant to give out a message that I am creative, that I know what is in vogue and that I appreciate nature,” she stated.
However, while taking a critical look at the current tattoo trends, especially among the youth, Kehinde Oderemi, who is a youth herself, and who saw no justification for wearing tattoos, said, “Many people claim that the tattoos they wear are supposed to bear some messages; most times those messages are newly found love, broken relationships, or tattoos to aid the memory of a lost loved one. But the question is, if every message must be tattoed on one’s body, for instance,
if someone decides to be tattooed because he/she has been jilted, what happens to that tattoo if the broken relationship is mended again, or if he/she finds new love again? That means, in no distant time, the individual’s whole body will be covered with tattoos.”
Kehinde, in her own opinion, believes that the main reason people go for tattoos nowadays is because of the influence of the western world. “Many of the popular musicians, actors and sports personalties have different kinds of tattoos. Many youths watch them on TV and they become easily obsessed with the life styles of these stars, including the tattoos they wear,”
But according to Mrs. Ayo Imisiola, an elderly woman in her 60’s, tattoos are not new things in many societies. “During the time of our own parents, there were different kinds of marks, in form of tattoos, permanently marked on either their arms or legs. Such tattoos were seen as objects to beautify the body. However, today’s tattoos are somehow different.
You see all manner of things drawn on different parts of people’s bodies including breasts and buttocks. This is totally alien to the true African culture, which places great value on some parts of the woman’s body,” she declared.
She added that her own mother had some forms of tattoos on her arms which were strictly cultural in nature, and which were meant to place a value on her as a true daughter of her community.
Other reason why people wear tattoos
In the past, the main essence of tattoos was identification. According to the Wikipaedia, tattoos have served as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decoration for bravery, sexual lures and mark of fertility, pledges of love, punishment, amulets and talismans, protection and as the mark of outcasts, slaves and convicts.
There are also tattoos based on medical reasons, albeit, temporarily. Medical tattoos are principally meant to ensure that medical instruments are properly located for repeated application of radiotherapy and also, according to medical experts, for areola; in some forms of breast reconstruction. Also, in the past, medical tattoos were used to convey some medical information e.g blood group, about the wearers.
Today, however, people go for tattoos mainly for cosmetic, aesthetic, sentimental, memorial, religious, magic reasons, as well as to indicate whatever groups (including criminal groups), cult and fraternity they belong to.
The outstanding resurgence in the number of people wearing tattoos is mainly due to the advancement in the quality of pigments used in tattooing, influx of new artists into the body art industry, many of whom have sound, technical and fine arts training, general improvement in the type of equipment used for making tattoos, which has, in extension, led to an improvement in the qualities of tattoos being produced as well as an improvement in tattooing environments and conditions.
Also, the resurgence of tattoos in the developing nations, Nigeria inclusive, is also due to the overberaring influence of the western world. Many of African youths, these days, want to talk, act, dance, dress and even appear like their counterparts from the western world. This attitude is aided by the availability of different means of communication, like the Internet and TV, foreign movies and songs, different kinds of magazines and books as well as sports.
At this juncture, it is very expedient to say that for those who love having tattoos, those who intend going for them as well as those who carry them out, hygiene is of outmost importance, as a poorly produced tattoo could be easily infected, and this could lead to a lot of problems (diseases) for the bearer.
Needles used for making tattoos are not supposed to be shared; it is a one needle-for-one individual situation which must never be compromised, otherwise, apart from unprotected sex and unhygienic blood transfusion, sharing of sharp objects like tattoo needles could become another avenue for the transmission of the dreaded HIV/AIDS.