The journey of a tattoo artist

Even a decade ago, there were no places in Bangladesh to get a tattoo, let alone a good one. Answering to the growing demand among the youth, several talented artists have chosen tattoo art as a livelihood. Among them, Saidur Rahman is one of the earliest and respected tattoo artists of Bangladesh. In an interview with Noor al Huda, he talks about his journey and philosophy of this art.



New Age: How would you like to introduce yourself to the reader?

Saidur Rahman:  I am a tattoo artist. I have been in the business for over 10 years now. Take me as a friend. Some people consider me an alien for my tattoos and the way I talk, but I’m a very simple man.


New Age: How did you come to this profession? Tell us about your journey.

Saidur Rahman: Well, let’s see. I have been a tattoo artist since 1998. I have a BSc and MSc in computer science and engineering from Bangalore University. Apart from studying, I used to draw a lot, mainly portraits and landscapes. I was drawn more towards art than electronics. I came into this profession from the sheer love and devotion towards art. I went to Tattoo Art Academy in Thailand, where I studied tattoos and tattoos only. I completed a diploma there, I had to undergo rigorous training. One thing, I would like to state is that, you have to have a creative mind. You need to be able to think outside of your comfort zone. You cannot expect to ink something by looking it up on the internet. It’s not how art works. And one more thing, I don’t repeat the same work twice. Every work is unique and symbolic to me and to my client. So don’t expect me to give you something that you have seen on this another guy. I don’t copy.


New Age: How do you get approached by clients?

Saidur Rahman: A few days ago, a guy came to me with a shoe. He wanted me to ink that shoe at a certain angle. Now, I have seen many artists who would suggest customers to change things up a bit, download something from the internet, and work on that instead. There are artists who try to change a request so they make their work easier and feasible for themselves. But I differ to do so. My client gets what my client demands. People come to me with their ideas and I ink them. That is how I work.


New Age: What designs are most popular these days?

Saidur Rahman: At present, traditional, tribal, Māori, Japanese and Thai traditional design, Indian mandala designs are very popular. These are the current trending styles. Women prefer the mandala design now over anything, on their back usually. There are also many new designs coming; however, the traditional and older designs seem to stick around for longer period of time, earning them the classic status.


New Age: Tell us a bit more about your clients?

Saidur Rahman: First of all, you have to be 18 and above to get a tattoo. It has nothing to do with the law. It’s the biology at play here. Before 18, the layer of the skin tissue is very thin. An inexperienced artist can easily damage the skin and the damage can be fatal, because it could lead to cancer. I get customers of all ages. Majority of them are students from different private universities, models, working men and women. I have a large group of customers from North South University. In recent days, more women come for tattoos than men. Last week, I have tattooed 18 people, 11 of them were women.


New Age: What sort of tools and machineries do you use? Do you perform the act of removing tattoos too?

Saidur Rahman: All my inks and machines are handpicked by me, often handmade by experienced craftsmen. Every part of the body needs different setup of machineries. For example, I cannot use the machine I am using on a forearm to draw on the neck. The wrist requires a totally different setup since there are nerves right underneath the skin with minimal muscle. For inks and needles, you have to know they have an expiry date. Inks usually last two years and needles have six months of expiry date. I bring my inks from USA, UK and Japan. I don’t recommend Chinese or Indian products since they don’t have an expiry date and the authenticity of these products are questionable. Matter of duplicities in the products can cause major harm to your skin.

As for tattoo removal, I would recommend don’t get a tattoo if you want to remove it in the future, be definitive about your decision before having that tattoo. A tattoo should have a meaning. If you have family issues then don’t get a tattoo to begin with. There are laser surgeries available but it will cause more harm than do you good. Laser my friend, is a ‘cancer’ causing element.


New Age: What do you do apart from drawing tattoos?

Saidur Rahman: Apart from tattooing, I own couple of computer hardware shops and I take classes in several tattoo schools in India. The institutions I take classes are House of Pain, December Ink Tattoo, Pin point and Namaste Ink. On top of everything, I love to draw whenever I’m not working.


New Age: Do you have a mentor?

Saidur Rahman: I do. His name is Suronjit Shah Biplob, the owner of House of Pain, a tattoo shop and institute in India. He was never keen on teaching, but I was eager to learn from him. He has been inking since 1992. I realised, he had to be my mentor. I had to pursue him. After requesting him numerous times, he took me in as his apprentice and I stayed at his house and practiced the craft under him.


New Age: You have so many tattoos on your arms, what is the initial response or comment you receive when you walk on the streets of Dhaka?

Saiudur Rahman: A year back, I received criticisms from some Muslim religious devotees. They told me I was going to hell. Now you cannot condemn one to hell as you have no rights to question others belief, according to the scripture. The regular accusation is that water doesn’t purify tattooed skin during ablution. But look here, my skin is regenerating hair. So water does reach the desired depth of the skin. Then there are questions from the people asking where I got my tattoos from, does it hurt, bleed, itch and they just stare at me like I am some kind of alien coming from another world.


New Age: How many tattoos do you have in your body?

Saidur Rahman: In total, there are 67 tattoos on my entire body. I have a fasting Buddha on my back and it’s a unique one. This is halfway done; several artists worked on it for 42 hours in a period of five days already. Before the death of Buddha he fasted for a month which gave him a near emaciated form. A tribal traditional tattoo done by traditional method is on my left arm, which signifies aggressiveness. On my right sleeve, I got a Japanese traditional fulka, koi fish, a third eye, geometrical shape, a skull, a dragon, a tiger and a few more. Oh! and one more koi fish on my left leg.


New Age: Thank you for your time.


Noor al Huda is a student of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.


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