Friday, May 30, 2014

That Tribal Tattoo...

A tattoo can be an interesting conversation starter since posing questions about its location, design and meaning creates an avenue to understanding the psyche of the bearer. Hence when I got mine, I knew I was going to be met with a barrage of questions from curious souls, especially because of its abstract origins. When asked about the meaning of my tattoo, I’d often say, in an attempt to kill the conversation, that it’s simply a tribal tattoo with no meaning. If I get a quizzical look in return, I’d expound by saying: “It’s abstract, so spectators have the carte-blanche to interpret it as they please.” That answer always puts an end to further questioning and frees me from further explanations.
Tribal tattoo
Photo: Shayera

I waited seven years to get tattooed. The long wait had less to do with fear, and more to do with finding the right tattoo parlor. During those years, I made several changes to the design and location of the tattoo I was hoping to get. I went from wanting Chinese characters on my shoulder blade to kanji characters on my ankle to having a black widow crawling down my back.

Later, my mind vacillated between a fairy on my lower back and a tribal tattoo on my wrist. The latter of the two ideas stuck with me for a while, but after pondering about the impression it may have on potential employers, especially since I live in conservative environment, I thought it wise not to get a tattoo on my wrist. Moreover, there was always that threat of boredom lurking nearby that would inevitably lead to a trip to the dermatologist to laser it off.

For someone who easily gets bored, I didn’t want a tattoo that would represent a single idea. I also didn’t want it to be located in an area where I’d see it often, plus I wanted the option of concealment so I could hide and exhibit it as I pleased. Another reason why the location was of importance was that I wanted the shape and design to remain unchanged in the event that I lose or put on weight. With all these criteria in mind, I figured a tribal tattoo on my back fitted the bill perfectly. Five years on and my tribal tattoo sits pretty on my upper back where I can only view it with the help of a mirror, hence neutralizing the threat of boredom.

Tribal designs have always intrigued me because they possess a mysterious and ineffable quality that predisposes them to different interpretations. In a way, they symbolize life in all its complexities, and just like life, they shouldn’t be figured out but experienced as trying to do otherwise will only drive one insane. Just as abstract art is never devoid of meaning, so is life full of surprises – surprises that may come as serendipitous events or unfortunate accidents.

Rainy days will serve as reminders to appreciate the sunshine and that umbrella. There will be some adventurous times as well as some soul-destroying periods of ennui. There will be some friendly faces along the way and the not so friendly ones. And since life is a journey, you will get lost and confused on some days, and on other days you will be confident of where you’re headed. Also you’ll discover and explore new roads, if you’re brave enough to take a detour once in a while.

My tribal tattoo serves as a physical reminder of what life should be. Life shouldn’t be defined, but should be seen as a long road with several paths leading to a destination. Life isn’t simple – it’s a mysterious, indescribable and abstract experience that we shouldn’t strive to understand. Its complexities shouldn’t be over-analyzed; they should simply be experienced with all the senses.