Unique experiences, shared memories of ink tales

Unique experiences, shared memories of ink tales


KATHMANDU

As the last day of the 11th International Nepal Tattoo Convention headed towards its end, the ambience got busier as the crowd eagerly waited for one of the thrilling performances of the day – piercing.

US artist Saint James, representing Temple Adorn, was the highlight of the show who held the spectators present spellbound with his act of body piercing. He self-pierced two thick large needles through his cheeks, and three more needles through the skin of his chest. Finishing the act on stage, he went around the tattoo con venue accompanied by some lakheys. It was a show to witness, and worth the wait.

Afraid that she would miss this interesting showcase of body piercing, Luli of Luli Tattoo rushed towards the stage from her booth. The Spanish artist who had been occupied with an interview was afraid she might miss the highlight of the day which seemed to mesmerise other visitors equally.

Such and other interesting showcases of cultural dances and musical performances along with tattoo and piercing works were part of the three-day Convention that ended on a promising note on April 7.

It was promising in the sense that the Convention was able to provide spaces for unique as well artists’ new visions.


Photo: Skanda Gautam/ THT

Unique was the display of Newar Tattoo Project by Luli who has worked with Newar grandmothers aka Ajis of Bhaktapur for a documentary of the same name as well as her tattoo works. After trying for some years “I have been able to bring this project to the Convention and it is for the Newar people”, as per her.

Her booth had a display of photographs depicting the lower back (around the lower half of the calf to the ankles) of the legs of Newar women with different tattoo patterns including “aankhijyal, cooking pots and peacock tails” which are an integral part of the Newar culture.

The artist shared, “I fell in love with the Ajis with hakupatasi and tattoos while living in Bhaktapur with my then Newar boyfriend in 2017.” She would go around, meet those women, take photographs of their traditional tattoos and understand their story with the help of her boyfriend. She made a documentary of the project, and inked those tattoos on the interested

locals.

But she is having a problem because “the Newar girls do not want to get these traditional tattoos as they think they are big, painful and very dark”.

Aiming to address their needs, she did modifications making tattoos the look smaller, slimmer and better. Yet again as many young Nepalis want to go abroad for employment opportunities, they do not want to get tattooed in the fear of being rejected for a job.

Photo: Skanda Gautam/ THT

Photo: Skanda Gautam/ THT

The artist is sad that today’s generation does not want to connect with their grandmothers, adding, “Tattoo was seen in a bad light in my culture. Had there been such culture in my place, I would have made it a point to connect with my grandmother,” said the artist who calls these Ajis super tough in the context that they would walk from Bhaktapur to Kathmandu to get the tattoo and return walking despite the pain.

“I am in this Convention only for the Newar project. Otherwise, I do not like going to conventions,” stated Lula.

The story of Pinye Yu of Filomela Studio, representing China, is a bit different – she has been to other conventions around the world, but this is her first time at Nepal Tattoo Convention. The artist, who had finished working on two pieces by the third and last day of the tattoo fest, found the Convention “pretty fascinating”.

“When I first arrived here, I found Nepal a bit chaotic. But after we went to some temples, got to know about the history and culture, I really loved it. The Convention is even better than some conventions I have been to before,” she informed.

What is so unique for her? “Unlike other conventions, I liked the way you got to meet people from diverse parts of the world, and there was more of a cultural diversity,” said Yu who got to know about this Convention via Instagram.

Teammates from her studio are even going hiking following the Convention, while this artist wants to come back for the next convention and stay longer to explore other cities of Nepal.

Sharing about the tattoo scene in China, Yu who specialises in black-and-grey and black works, revealed that the number of tattoo artists is increasing though still small in number.

Photo: Skanda Gautam/ THT

Photo: Skanda Gautam/ THT

While it was first time for Yu, this is the third year for Manorma Khatri from Razone Tattoo of Nepal at the Convention. A mandala artist as well as a tattoo artist, Khatri likes this event because “I get to meet new people and display my designs”.

The interior-designer-turned-artist added, “Back in the studio you do not get to meet many people, but here artists meet one another, stay together, eat together and create a bond.”

Bringing together some 200 artists from different parts of the world, and presenting best of the tattoo world, the organisers seemed quite content with this year’s event.

“Everything went smooth, we are tired yet happy,” shared Bijay Shrestha co-director of the Convention while connecting it to the last year’s Convention. “As we had organised the Convention in a gap of four years, it was like doing it for the first time. We settled well this year perhaps because of the experience of last year.”

“May be we learnt to manage things and stress from last year,” added Om Gurung, also the Convention’s co-director.

Photo: Skanda Gautam/ THT

Photo: Skanda Gautam/ THT

One thing that Shrestha noticed this year is that “the new Nepali artists are great and their growth is evident”.

And the duo seemed to be already ready for the next convention as they shared in unison: “This year we were late but we will announce it sooner for the next year.”



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