Not so long ago, having a tattoo was considered to be something that caused one to be viewed as an outcast. This is no longer the case as more and more young people including a few middle-aged individuals in Zambia are getting “inked”.
Tattoos are increasingly becoming a popular fashion statement among a growing number of young people in Zambia who now see them as an artistic work on their bodies.
“I had my first tattoo in February this year, and I am getting another today. I fell in love with tattoos at a very young age, but my parents would not allow me to have them on,” said 20-year-old Mary Mwansa.
Mwansa, a resident of Zambia’s capital Lusaka, said she considers tattoos to be just like any other thing that people use to beautify their bodies.
“It is just the same as wearing earrings or bracelets except tattoos are sort of permanent bodily ornaments,” she asserted.
Her thoughts on tattoos are similar to those of Kangwa Chileshe, a famous middle-aged Zambian actor who said “tattoos are nothing more than bodily art.”
Namwezi Mukaka, 33, also a resident of Lusaka who has about three tattoos on different parts of her body, revealed that getting the first tattoo helped her get over a very difficult situation.
“I just needed to get a tattoo to get over a difficult situation in my life. To my relief, I did get over it after getting a tattoo. These permanent artworks now exist to remind me that I am a strong-willed person that can survive anything,” Mukuka said.
When asked about the assertion that women that have tattoos have challenges getting married, Mukuka said people in general and men in particular no longer focus on external things such as tattoos but on intentions and good works.
“I am happily married and my husband sees nothing wrong with me having a tattoo or two. I think people are beginning to realize that one can look as holy as possible but be the worst human being ever,” she explained.
And a tattooist Kingston Matama, 25, said tattoos are an expression of an individual’s inner feelings that often reflect the beautiful thoughts of a person at a particular time and that people with tattoos are simply expressive.
Matama who started his tattooing business two years ago in Morocco, North Africa explained that it is a lucrative business, from which one can earn even over 5,000 Zambia Kwacha (about 230 U.S. dollars) per week, adding that the price per tattoo varies but starts from 150 Zambia Kwacha (about 7 U.S. dollars).
“I just came back from Kabwe, central Zambia where I had gone to work on 20 clients. The number of people needing tattoos overwhelmed me. Currently, young women constitute the majority of my clientele,” he said.
Matama added that gone are the days when people with tattoos were considered to be social misfits and members of deprived groups stressing that individuals with tattoos are just normal human beings that just appreciate art a lot more.
“People used to think that younger women with tattoos are wild and promiscuous, but that is changing as some men are finding women with tattoos attractive, just as one would get attracted to a person with big eyes. We all have different preferences,” Matama said.
According to him, the growing number of people particularly the younger generation appreciating tattoos is an indication that Zambian society is becoming more liberal.