Inked And In Charge
Bona|November 2019
Inked And In Charge
Back in the day, getting a tattoo was considered taboo. But, in recent years we’ve seen more black people embracing this form of art and even opening their own tattoo parlours. Three artists share their experiences and give us a glimpse into their businesses.
Amanda Mtuli & Fundiswa Nkwanyana

GETTING STARTED

In 2008, I graduated with a fine art diploma at the Vaal University of Technology. I then worked as a portrait artist in a gallery in Durban for a year before developing an interest in tattooing. I applied to be a tattoo artist at a studio in Durban by sending my portfolio through. I was hired and given three months’ training. I learnt how to draw with needles, prepare the skin and transfer a sketch from a piece of paper to skin. It was easy for me to adapt because I already knew how to draw. I started off by replicating available tattoo designs. But, now I prefer to talk to my clients and help them personalise their tattoos.

NAVIGATING THE SPACE

After working for a few studios, I decided to open a tattoo parlour in Durban in 2010 because I wanted to be self-employed. Running my own business was challenging; I struggled to make money and eventually had to close it. In 2011, I moved to Johannesburg to start afresh. I was afraid of failing again, but eventually opened a parlour with my business partner Dawid Smith. It is called Black and White Tattoo Studio, and I’m happy that we are running it successfully.

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

As a businessman in the tattoo industry, it was difficult to find an ideal location. It also took a long time to grow a steady customer base. Being a tattoo artist is not just about inking; it’s hard work that needs a lot of focus. You have to constantly sharpen your skills and ensure that you’re on top of your game.

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November 2019