Sunday January 26 2014

Bracing tattoo tears

Mohammed Veli Handule drawing a tattoo on his

Mohammed Veli Handule drawing a tattoo on his client’s arm. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI 

Tell us a bit about yourself
I love art. I read Physics Economics Maths and Fine Art at St Lawrence Citizen’s High School- London College. Currently, I’m studying 3D Animation at Aptech.

How did you start the tattoo parlour?
Back in my school days, friends always asked me to draw pictures on their palms or arms. During my Senior Six vacation, I decided to learn professional tattooing at Kwem’s Tattoos, Kenya. I also used to part time as a mobile tattooist after my course.

Why tattooing?
My love for art drove me into this. Then, the feeling of knowing someone has your tattoo permanently is amazing.

Were your parents supportive?
Yes, I asked them for one year off to start up my business and they agreed. They love me. My sister too, helped me buy equipment for the parlour though I had to top up the money using my savings from being a mobile a tattooist.

What challenges have you faced as a young tattooist?
First of all most Ugandans think of tattos as a taboo or something for the spoiled brats. And the ones who understand it think I charge a lot of money. I do not publicise my business a lot. Few people do not know that there’s a young man in Uganda who does professional tattooing.

How do you get your clientele?
By word of mouth. I tell my friends who ask their friends if they ever want a tattoo and they give out my telephone number. Then there is social media, I tweet and use Facebook too to advertise my tattoos. My clientele is basically between the ages of 18-35 years. The oldest client I have ever tattooed was 70 years old, he was a white.

Is there any tattoo artist you look up to in Uganda?
There are very few tattoo parlours in Uganda. So it is hard to identify someone good. But, I could say Khan of Shades Tattoos. He is good.
But the truth is I’m I always think of myself as the only one in Uganda who has a professional tattoo parlour. I have all the equipment, I sterilise my needles and machines which most parlours do not do.

Your future expectations?
My goal this year is to make Kla Ink the biggest tattoo parlour in Uganda. Every celebrity has to get a tattoo from me, which I believe is going to happen.

How many celebrities have you tattooed so far?
So far it is only Brian Ahumuza, celebrity stylist at Abyranz Collection. I look forward to working with most of them this year.

How much do your tattoos cost?
The minimum is Shs70, 000 going up. I do not do the most expensive tattoo. The size of the tattoo determines the price.

Which is the weirdest part of the body you have tattooed?
The breasts and near the private parts of mainly females. But I keep it professional. I never get intimate with them.

Have some of your clients tried to hit on you before?
Yeah. Many times but, I respect them as my clients and we become friends.

Five steps on how to care for a fresh tattoo
Pat dry: Pat your skin dry with a washcloth or a soft, non-abrasive paper towel. Do not slack off here especially if your tattoo is placed in a dark and warm area where moisture and bacteria thrive. This all affects the end result of your colour job, so be diligent and take the time to care for your new skin and tattoo.

Keep it clean: Nurture your fresh tattoo with a warm sponge bath. Use an anti-bacterial soap and wash gently three to four times per day for the first three days. Be careful with your tender skin and do not scrub, rather splash water and soap onto the affected area.

Sun protection: Tattoos will lighten. Keep them away from the sun. Even on cloudy days when the ultraviolet rays are actually more intense. It is inevitable for some tattos to fsde, but you can certainly do your best to keep your investment bright and vivid.

Wrap it: People forget tattoos are wounds. It’s not normal to be poked by needles. Treat your fresh tattoo with the same diligence as any other raw skin injury. A gauze bandage will comfort your skin and should be worn for two hours minimum after your tattoo. Stop peeking and allow your tattoo this time undercover to heal and prevent air-borne bacteria from entering the open skin.

Keep it moist: Tattoos need moisture to prevent fading, so lube up. Keep your tattoo moist as it heals. Apply lotion daily and it will keep scabs at bay and help retain your vibrant colour. Consider it money and time well spent and be sure to apply regularly during the initial healing stages after your tattoo.