MEMORY MANINGA, Lusaka
AS A developing nation with a growth model currently tailored towards diversification from dependency on copper to agriculture and entrepreneurial skills, Zambia faces one conflict of interest in some of the entrepreneurial business ventures coming up, such as the body tattoo business.
While the government is open to having as many diverse business ventures as possible, in 1991, Zambia was declared a Christian nation, and as such, most of it roughly over 16 million people would be adverse to body piercing and tattoos.
However, this is one of the most promising businesses in the country providing employment opportunities for a considerable number of people in the informal sector.
Social media, and increased inter cultural relations has made the sight of tattoos more common, with many people, especially artists, musicians and sports celebrities spotting tattoos on their bodies. Celebrated musician, Kayula Bwalya aka Kay Figo has a tattoo over her left arm.
Aside from artistes, many people especially the women folk have developed the trend of tattooing their bodies.
There are as many reasons for having tattoos as the people having them. Different tattoos have different meanings depending on the message an individual intends to portray.
Lameck Musonda has tattooed his late daughter’s names on his right arm as a constant reminder of her memory.
“Natasha is my late daughter, she was my first born and I loved her so much. Her death affected me a lot and it was difficult for me to comprehend the fact that she was gone. I decided to get this tattoo so that I could feel her close to me whenever I think of her,” Mr Musonda disclosed.
Mr Musonda said having the tattoo is his way of wishing her well in the afterlife and keeping her memory close.
For others, tattoos are used as a mode of expression of one’s inner feelings.
For instance, Melody Sinyangwe, a business lady has a butterfly tattoo on her waist depicting that after the struggles she has undergone, she has still made it in life and is now a successful business woman.
“This tattoo means a lot to me it represents what I have gone through in my life to even be able to reach this far as a person,” she says.
Brown Manasseh, a well-informed professional tattoo artist says in as much as people have different messages to communicate through tattoos, sometimes, the tattoos are just an artistic impression.
“Usually, people have their bodies tattooed to communicate a message to those around them. It maybe to show how much they are in love with a person or it may be to show how much they miss a loved one after they are gone.
“But it is not all the time that a tattoo has a meaning, other times it’s just out of fun that people have them done,” Mr Manasseh explained.
Mr Manasseh said as modern tattoos keep trending in today’s society, the potential of the business to contribute to the national coffers keeps growing.
“I have been in the business for the last seven years and I can see a relaxed trend towards tattoos as opposed to before when people would be highly sceptical about tattoo art. On a slow day, I manage to have two to three clients daily and when business is great, I get about eight clients,” he explained.
And another professional tattoo artist, Moses Banda, operating from Lusaka’s town centre has the same perspective.
“People are starting to embrace tattoo art in Zambia, aside from artists; we have ordinary people doing them. We charge K100 for smaller tattoos and bigger ones are slightly expensive but in the range K300 to K500,” Mr Banda said.
Although tattoos are slowly becoming common in our Zambian culture, there are still many people who are condeming the art.
Some say tattoos are against the practice saying they are ungodly and connects people to the satanic realm.
“I would not advise people to have tattoos because tattoos in their form are creepy and mostly represent the satanic kingdom. When people do that, they automatically get under the influence of the devil and they become wild and even weird at times,” Bwembya Mutale, a Lusaka resident says.
And according to Leviticus 19vs28, God prohibits cutting and tattooing of one’s body.
“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord,” says the scripture (New International Version).
Meanwhile, Mr Manasseh and Mr Banda’s interpretation of the scripture is different from that of many Christians.
Mr Manasseh shares that a lot of people have misunderstood the Bible in Leviticus 19vs29 saying God did not in fact prohibit tattoos but the types of tattoos people get.
“The scripture has been misinterpreted by many. That scripture does not prohibit tattoos per say but prohibits the practice of making tattoo marks of dead people or persons we look up to because doing so will mean we are practising idol worship in the eyes of God and God is a jealous God,” Mr Manasseh justifies.
As well, Mr Banda shared his opinion on the matter and said “There is nothing wrong with a person having a tattoo because in the first place, God does not judge a man based on appearance but deeds.
“Tattoos are merely for decorating and beautifying the body which is just the same as makeup nowadays,” he said.
The church however is strongly against the growing custom.
Bible Gospel Church in Africa (BIGOCA) presiding bishop, Peter Ndhlovu says it is unfortunate that many Zambians still have a habit of emulating what they see from the Western culture.
He noted that tattoos are demonic adding that they are a symbol of the satanic covenant between Satan and man.
“These tattoos that people are getting accustomed to are very dangerous and should be stopped at all costs. Most people do them without knowing what they are getting into.
“I for one have seen people who have repented from this demonic act but sadly tattoos are permanent and cannot be erased and many that regret their actions end up living with regrets,” Bishop Ndhlovu said.
Furthermore, Bishop Ndhlovu called for collective commitment among stakeholders such as the church, civic leaders, teachers and individuals in advocating against the rising trend.
“Let’s not allow more people to perish for lack of knowledge, we must step up as the church, as individuals, as civic leaders and educate the public on the consequences of tattooing their bodies.
“I think it is about time that the school curriculum was embedded with moral and biblical teachings where such topics can be learnt, I feel this would really stop the urge in people engaging in the trend,” he added.
As the debate rages on, the business continues to grow in Zambia continues to grow, with people spotting tattoos on different parts of the body such as the waist, thighs and sometimes even the private parts.