Rapper Sauce Kid, N4Life’s Ace Adegoke, Swe Bar’s Ayana Olubiyi are just a sample of Nigerian celebrities with tattoos. While the aforementioned and even more Nigerian entertainment personalities are beginning to embrace tattoos, within the fashion industry and society at large, tattooing is one trend that is still trying to fit in; never mind that the act of tattooing has been practiced for centuries worldwide,including Africa. Why the consternation over tattoos in Nigeria?
In the USA, tattoos were typically found among the lower socio-economic class and society’s “deviants.” The “deviant” stigma has since changed as entertainers, doctors, lawyers and people from all walks of life spot one. There is even a highly successful show in the USA called LA Ink which really shows a diverse range of reasons why people get tattoos. In Nigeria, the fear of the unknown as well as the stereotype of “deviants” has stuck.
Also, while many factors exist that cause concern about tattoos, the key objection is that of the morality of wearing a tattoo. There is a negative stigma associated with those who wear tattoos as the public, at large, view it as a morally wrong thing to do. In addition, some argue that there is a tendency for Nigerians to do “their usual copy, copy” of the West. The slow but steady growth of tattoos is an example of this copy copy syndrome. “For Christsakes, why would anyone get a tattoo on their body?!” Also, specific to animals, tattooing is historically and technically a form of branding that was used by early pastoral farmers to identify and keep stock of their livestock. So, why would Nigerians adopt these trend that was used on animals?
The negativity associated with tattoos notwithstanding, the tattoo syndrome is slowly but surely gaining acceptance and adoration in Nigeria. Indeed a cursory glance into the history of tattoos, especially in Africa, reveal that it has been used overtime for different purposes including medicinal, decorative, spiritual and to show bravery especially for warriors. Indeed tattooing in Africa is said to have it origins in Egyptian civilization.
Generally speaking, there are two main types of tattoos: temporary and permanent tattoos. Within Nigeria, the temporary tattoo is the most patronized as it affords its wearers the flexibility of wearing different types depending on the occasion.
In terms of design, there are several options for wearers. The decorative tattoo option provides designs that include flowers, the name of a religious leader, name of a spouse and/or child, and in some instances the name of the wearer of the tattoo. Symbolic tattoos include tattoos denoting religion, affection or meaning something else solely known to the wearer. Animal tattoo designs are also in high demand: butterflies, scorpions, reptiles, crocodiles, to name a few.
In addition, while tattoos are obviously worn in diverse yet hidden parts of the body, recent bold statement tattoos are worn to be shown off. It is not unusual to see tattoo wearers in Nigeria, these days, spot tattoos above the breasts, towards the end of the spines, upper arms and ankles.
Whatever your reason for spotting a tattoo and whichever type you choose to wear, it is a trend which seems determined to stay. Be aware, however, that when the trend fades, depending on the tattoo you get, you will have to live with the permanence of your Nigerian tattoo ink.