Ancient Adornment Revitalized
By Hache G, / Photos: CubaPLUS
It has taken quite a long time for tattooing to rupture taboos and move from marginal groups (sailors, soldiers and convicts) to youth and eventual acceptance by the adult generation as just another personal choice for decoration.
Use of tattoos of course is not new, it dates to the earliest epochs of humanity when primitive civilizations used tattoos as paint and jewelry to beautify their bodies.
Little by little contemporary artists erased tattoos' negative image -along with that of multiple piercings now found in navels, noses and lips as well as earlobes- beginning with hidden or discrete tattoos to ankles, arms, backs and just about anywhere on the body.
Not a universal taste, nevertheless tattoos are now part of the aesthetic of the general population.
Scientists, however, continue to express concern that tattoos and piercing can cause or promote bacterial infections as well as incurable and even deadly diseases like Hepatitis C and AIDS.
Most of the time, such infections are caused by non disposable needles and insufficiently sterilized equipment.
To be safe, pigments used in tattoos should have a mineral origin and be applied with a local anesthesia subcutaneously by a sharp, thin disposable needle. In fad, there are movements in different countries promoting legal measures to control tattooing, including eyelid lining with inks not specified for use on the skin and promoting approval by a health institution. Such regulations do not exist as yet.
Tattoos did not find popular generational expression in Cuba until the early 1990s and even then there were not so many places to get a tattoo. Evelio's House in Havana was one of the first and most popular tattoo artists.
Alain is an example of Cuban tattoo artists today. He began his art in the military service as a hobby and by 1996 became a professional artist. Now at 34, with years of experience behind him, his work is based on Latin American and African native-tribal tattoos.
"I like using mostly black and red; always with a strong contrast," he says.
Although there are many artists like Alain in Cuba, the Hermanos Saiz Association is the only organization supporting their work. Hermanos Saiz is a cultural organization bringing together all kinds of established and rising cultural and musical trends.
"You can find all sorts of tattoos in Cuba from traditional to religious motifs, reflecting our cultural and social mix. And not only in Havana, but in the provinces there are many artists and with lots of talent."