#SliceOfLife: Inking the unthinkable and scandalous tattoos

Dave Smith of Black & White Tattoos thinks that tattoos reveal something about a person and they are more personal. (Oupa Nkosi)

Dave Smith of Black & White Tattoos thinks that tattoos reveal something about a person and they are more personal. (Oupa Nkosi)

It’s so personal when you put something on your skin. It reveals something about you. It tells a story about you before you’ve even met someone. I love the anecdotes behind every tattoo. 

One of the stories that stands out is “The Property of Ms Didi”. I can be an old man in my 80s but I will never forget that outrageous couple. In comes a properly dressed, Sandton lawyer type. And behind him is a short, cheeky chikita. The guy comes closer and whispers: “I need to get my genitals branded.” Now, I’ve created a few wild tattoos in the past, but nothing compares with this one.

This one was mind-boggling. He looked very guilty, so I immediately suspected the significance of the tattoo. I suggested getting it in a different place but the woman — she was his fiancée — was insistent. I tried to explain the dangers of getting a tattoo in that area, but she needed to mark her territory.

I tried to reason with the man but it was clear the situation was being forced. He must have been cheating … we were in deep trouble here. Still, after a lengthy discussion, a more gentle location was agreed on. You see, every portrait I create is like a painting that cannot be erased. I can’t afford to make mistakes because the canvas I am working on has feelings. 

But situations like these make you realise that as an artist you will sometimes get your Lady Gagas of the world who will never back down, so it’s up to you to learn how to cross that bridge and step up. But by overcoming a challenge like that, you’re ready for the next one. r

— Dave Smith from Black & White Tattoos, as told to Tshiamo Matojane and Nonjabulo Thabethe

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