Breaking out of the stereotype with Saidur Rahman
Bangladesh has become home to many popular trends; be it the coffee culture or vaping, we have a nose for the next big thing. We are a developing country, but it truly speaks wonders when you see little tattoo parlours springing up in different parts of the city, overturning stale stereotypes.
Everyone wants to leave their mark in this world, and it’s incredible how tattoo artists leave theirs on people -- live designs and works of art that tell a story.
The perception of tattoos in Bangladesh has been changing over the years and among many known artists, Saidur Rahman from Lakshmi Ink BD went to Mumbai Tattoo School in India, got a diploma and came back to Bangladesh to start doing what he loves. He admires Surujnit Shah Biplob’s work, stating: “I got my last training from Surujnit Shah. He is great at mixing designs of different tattoos without any hassle.”
For people getting their first tattoos, these are the things to do after getting one:
• Take good care of the tattooed skin for two weeks
• Wash it three times a day
• Apply Vaseline on the skin from the fourth day till the fifteenth day. Within two weeks, the skin layer falls off and the tattoo lying underneath the layer emerges
Almost 10 years have gone by for Saidur in this business, and last year, he opened a new tattoo studio in Dhanmondi 2. He is a travelling artist who is out to experience the world of tattoos.
Let's be honest, tattoos are still considered a taboo by a major part of our society, but body modifications are not really a new trend; this has been going on since as early as 200 BC. Even in Bangladesh, women go through the simplest form of body modification -- piercings. Tattoos can be seen as a common trend in many remote areas of our country.
The rise of individuals who are stepping out of the social stigma has opened a sustaining market for tattoo lovers. Saidur got his first tattoo in a fair in Shankhari Bazaar. “It was the famous stick and poke method,” he said, “and though I did not know much about tattoos back then, I saw the work and got myself tattooed by him.”
Saidur, himself, embodies a work of art -- he has had 29 tattoos done on his body. Fun fact, there are 19 different parts of the body on which you can get tattooed. As an artist himself, Saidur says the neck is the most difficult part to work on. “The skin there is very soft, the veins are close to the needle and the area has fewer muscles. The easiest part to tattoo is the hands.”
The artist emphasizes that they do not tattoo people who are below 18 years. The reason behind this, he explains, is that: “The skin does not develop completely before the age of 18, and when we tattoo on such skin type, the customer tends to have problems in the long run.”
Most tattoo artists buy their products (inks, needles, tattoo machines) online, which can be cheap but will be of poor quality, and may affect their customers. Many people get their tattoos done from abroad, because this is why they can’t rely on local artists.
Saidur has been working around the world since 2010. He uses three types of ink -- Japanese, Indian, and American. They come in a set of six colours. “The best ink I use would be Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, which is a Japanese brand and costs around Tk28,000 per set. I make my own shades by mixing the colours.”
A tattoo usually fades as our skin layers keep falling and regenerating. Saidur offers free repair sessions that last for about 10 years.
Photo: Ahmed Hasam Rabbi
Machines matter a lot when it comes to inking your body permanently. Saidur uses custom hand-made tattoo machines by Union Machine. “The machines are differentiated according to the warp of the coil. There are 3 types of tattoo machines -- 8, 10, and 14 warp. The price depends on the warp of the machine’s coil.”
“The machines are expensive, but it is a one-time investment that I had to make. Machines can be bought online as well, but it will never match the quality of the hand-made ones. The mechanism is quite critical -- I have tried making it a few times. It does work, but the quality of the work is unsatisfactory.”
Fun fact two (but who is keeping count?): Tattooing doesn’t require much knowledge on art itself -- it is completely based on technology. There are some softwares which can be used to set the design. Saidur remarks: “If someone trains for 3 months, he/she can become a tattoo artist. You don't have to know art.”
Saidur has initiated a training academy for fresh minds, and, although the market is still growing, he thinks the people of Bangladesh have begun to take tattooing as a fashion trend. “People’s thought process is changing, as they hear about the availability of a tattoo removal process. There are several tattoo removing centres in Bangladesh now.” His future plans depend on the demand of inking, and he believes it’s rising at a steady pace.
Health issues that need to be taken into account
• Skin can get infected because of the ink quality, which can lead to cancer
• Artists have to dispose of a needle after using it on one client
• Do not use ink cap or a needle if it has expired
• The ink caps have to be changed after they are used
• Use a bar of soap to clean the skin before tattooing
• Tattoos are done in the third layer of the skin, and you need to let the artist know about any sort of allergies or medical conditions
Photo: Ahmed Hasam Rabbi
Saidur charges his customers based on their designs and the type of ink being used. His lowest price in Tk3,000. “The price of products has reduced with time, thus the price of tattoos has fallen as well.”
Saidur has come to love his job. “When you work on someone, the person will carry it on their skin for the rest of their lives. It's an awe-inspiring feeling. When I meet my clients after years and get to see my work -- it feels great! My work lives on as long as my clients do.”
Tattoo culture is definitely raining down in Bangladesh. People have many misinterpretations regarding tattooing. Saidur says: “There are many forbidden things in my religion, but that does not stop others from carrying out certain activities that go against their religious beliefs. However, there was a misconception that water does not get to our skin through a tattoo, but that has been proven wrong now.”
“I have tattoos on my body and I have facial hair, as well. My skin sweats just like any skin without a tattoo -- if water comes out, water gets in too. People still cannot believe that things are changing with the aid of technology. You can remove your tattoos too, so, it really doesn’t go against my beliefs.”
Fun fact three, you can still sweat like a normal person after getting a tattoo. So, if the world is going up in flames, you’ll still perspire. You are a blank canvas with unlimited possibilities.
Saidur Rahman runs a tattoo shop -- Lakshmi Ink BD, Shop 24, Level 3, Happy Arcade Shopping Mall, Dhanmondi 2. To get your tattoo, call -- 019120812698