I think anywhere you go to in the world, there will always be this horrible stigma against tattoos. Based on the little travelling I've done, I can tell you that it happens more in Asia than anywhere else. Take my visit to India in 2007 as an example. In Bangalore, I got stopped three times by customs officers and their local police. In Mumbai, I got stopped so many times from the plane to the baggage collection that I lost count!! Though it was not for wrong reasons, they were genuinely interested in my tattoos and wanted to know why I was in their country. If it's one thing I've learnt on that trip, the lovely people of India totally dig the elephant tattoo on my right arm.
Ok, let's talk about Singapore and tattoos in general. It doesn't take a genius to come to a conclusion that tattoos are now a trend. Just take a walk down Orchard Road and you'll see lots of people with ink. Some with tiny little tattoos, some with modest sized ink and some like myself with sleeves. We are everywhere and we are the tattooed community of Singapore that is growing by the day! True fact!
On Wednesday night while at Ang Mo Kio central, I was called over by this dude as I was walking back to this fast food joint. He flashed his police indentification card and said they were from the C.I.D's Secret Society Branch (SSB). There were lots of people walking by but unfortunately, I was chosen for the screening. Was I singled out because of my tattoos or my skin color? Regardless what anyone says, I know the damn answer! They asked for my ID and "Which gang are you from, now or in the past?" and "what does the tattoo on your neck mean?" are just two of the questions I was asked. Total waste of time if you ask me but I know they were just doing their job.
A few weeks ago, I got into a lift at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 and an old couple were in it. As the lift door was closing, the woman repeatedly pressed the 'open door' button and she got out with her husband. She had PANIC written all over her saggy face! For heavens sake, I was carrying my son and had a huge ass bag on the other arm. What could I have possibly done?? But you know, I laughed it off and I hope she didn't get a heart attack or a stroke. Heh!
The golden question on the local tattooed community's mind would be "Is the Singapore government against tattoos?". I think that is a question they (the Govt) need to answer someday in the near future. Other than religious reasons, I don't know why someone or an organization would be against this ancient art form.
People will always criticize what they don't understand. How many people would go out of their way to find out more about something before they pass judgement? With that said, it's up to the tattoo community to educate the general public. You can't just sit there and bitch that people don't understand us and they don't give this 'art-form' enough credit. Life just doesn't work that way!
One of the reasons I started working on the internet show Skin Art was because I wanted to help people understand why we do what we do. In my humble opinion, the show was a huge success though we only aired five episodes. It blows me away each time someone comes up to me at an event or on the streets and they proclaim their love for the show. Now if only the Media Development of Authority of Singapore (MDA) could give us a valid reason for coming down hard on Clicknetwork.tv regarding the show. I think it's time MDA stops being anal. It makes Singapore being a cosmopolitan city sound like a big fat joke! Seriously!
What are you views on the stigma against tattoos? If you aren't from Singapore, I'll love to hear how it is in your country. I'll be calling in to 91.3's The Married Men show tomorrow morning to talk about tattoos. That should be anytime between 7 to 8am. Tune in if you can!