Across the famed Al Fatah shopping centre in Defence, Lahore, a neon sign reads “Do not judge”. The bright light indicates the opening of Pitch Black Ink, a tattoo and piercing studio, which hopes to cater to those interested in body adornment. Tattoos, which have been an ancient art form, are now slowly pervading the Pakistani culture.
Zohaib Amjad, the owner of the studio, took a rather unique path to his ultimate career — he stared the tattooing business after serving in the Pakistan Army for five years. The 26-year-old has been creating various inkings on people since 2007 and has now developed an impressive clientele including many celebrities such as Quratulain Balouch, dancer Nargis, Shahan Khan from Roxen and renowned drummer Kenny Zuric. His genre of work ranges from tribal, Celtic, portraits, shaded and 3D tattoos.
The road less travelled
So how did his journey into becoming a successful tattoo artist begin? Amjad was serving in the Army when he got his first tattoo — a tribal design. After five years in the institution, Amjad decided that tattoos were his passion and resigned with the aim to become a tattoo artist.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing and the tattooist had to face his share of problems when trying to get into this business. “There weren’t any proper tattoo parlours in Lahore, so I didn’t have a lot of options where could I learn the art.” However, Amjad found a tattoo artist, Naveed Ahmed who agreed to teach him. Ahmed who owned a tattoo parlour Xrtra, was the only famous tattoo artist in Lahore at that time.
So the learning process took off, however, it was done in a rather unique way. While most practitioners first learn the art through proper training and the practice, Amjad did it the other way round — he first practised on willing subjects and later went for formal training in Bangkok from the Yansiam tattoo studio. To enhance and further his skills, he still goes regularly after every couple of months.
Rules to follow
He says that teenagers have expressed great interest in tattoos while doctors have been some of his most dedicated clients. “The biggest thing is hygiene,” says Amjad, who does not tattoo anyone under the age 18. “I use one needle per client and then dispose of it.”
A tattoo is not cheap though and according to Amjad, a small tattoo can cost up to Rs2,000 per square inch. The cost is, however, dependent on several other factors like how much work is required and texture of skin. A simple four-by-four inch tattoo can cost anywhere between Rs15,000 to Rs20,000.
People typically choose tribal designs or signs but Amjad maintains there’s no hard and fast rule as getting a tattoo is a very personal thing. “What kind of tattoo you want depends on your own concept of who you are.”
To round it up, Amjad says he is just doing something he loves. As he shows off his own collection of tattoos, he remarks that this is just the beginning. “I am not a good sketcher or an artist but I can do everything in tattoo art,” he says.
History of tattooing
The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian word tattau, which means “to mark”.
Some scientists say that tattoos found on Egyptian and Nubian mummies are the earliest known evidence of the practice and date back to 2000 BC.
Tattooing was then rediscovered by Europeans when explorers brought them into contact with Polynesians and American Indians.
Because tattoos were considered so exotic in European and US societies, tattooed Indians and Polynesians drew crowds at circuses and fairs during the 18th and 19th centuries.
(Source: faqs.org, msu.edu)
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2012.
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