The Cairo Tattoo Convention
By Sara Elaraby and Samia ElKhodary
Egypt witnessed its second tattoo convention over the weekend at The Tipsy Teapot in Ma’adi. The event, held on November 6-7, from 3 p.m. to 12 a.m., welcomed over 400 attendees to its venue for the sharing of body art.
According to the official Cairo Tattoo Convention website, the convention was created in conjunction with the Nowhereland Tattoo Project , where founder Orne Gil set out to “to bring the art of tattoo (to) countries – mainly in the Middle East – where it has been limited”. To bring like-minded individuals together, Gil partnered with fellow artist and photojournalist Ines Della Valle to bring her vision to life.
Valle, who had witnessed and documented the January 25th Revolution, and Gil reached out to artists, both local and foreign, to bring visibility to the underground art form. As a result, 20 local and international artists, composed of tattooers, piercers, and temporary body painters, gathered to provide a site for body art culture: artists were able to display their personal previous works, and worked on new tattoos for people that attended the convention.
The taboo of tattoos has kept the art mostly in the shadows, but that has recently started to change. According to Gil, the “tattoo culture (started) to move since more or less 3 years…(while) there were some artists that were working already, (it) was more exclusive…I think Cairo is ready for this.”
According to Valle, Egypt has been witnessing the rise of the tattoo art form, with about 70% of those who attended being local Egyptians, and welcoming over 12 more artists to the convention compared to the previous year.
One tattoo regular and convention attendee, Ahmed Talaat, was “shocked by the number of tattoo designers” and people at the event, and believes that Egypt should focus on more pressing issues rather than “being strict about a design… on my own skin”.
Talaat’s belief is slowly becoming the norm in the city. With the slow change in the taboo of tattoo, there is hope to embrace modern ideals, accept all art forms, and provide venues for self expression to everyone.
"It's more rewarding here (to do tattoos)...so the littlest thing you do here means something" - Mary Gabriel, convention tattoo artist
"Every tattoo I have has a meaning...when you look at it everyday in the morning, you still remember (that meaning)" - Ahmed Talaat, convention attendee