Tattoos as an art form trace their origins to the ancient centuries. Every culture across the world has seen its own development getting mingled with the indigenous cultures and distinctive styles. From the Maoris of New Zealand to the Red Indians in America, from the Mayans of South America to the tribes in Asia, each culture has added to the art of tattoo designs.
Tattoos, as a trend, is gradually becoming popular among Bangladeshis. With the growing demand for body art especially among the youth, there are several tattoo shops in Dhaka that exclusively design different types of tattoos.
Apart from that, there are some freelance tattoo artists, who can create the finest and most authentic tattoo designs that carry forward the tradition of tattoo art while providing someone with a distinct individuality.
Uttam Kumar Das is a tattoo artist, who has been tattooing since 2010. He has so far done over a thousand tattoos on the bodies of five to eight hundred people. Although the body artist does not have a formal tattoo shop, he operates a Facebook page called 'De Ink' through which he can visit customers to design a tattoo with a prior appointment.
"Tattooing is not only an art but also an expression of culture and rituals. Tattoos convey a strong personal emotion that reflects the soul," said Uttam. The artist charges around Tk2,000 to Tk20,000 for drawing a tattoo. "A full-body Maori tattoo costs Tk20,000," he also mentioned.
Uttam loves to do realistic tattoos although most clients usually prefer to tattoo symbols and designs. "I once tattooed the symbol of a guitar on my musician friend. What is interesting is that after seeing that tattoo on my page, at least 100 to 150 customers called me and got their bodies tattooed," he recalled.
Though Uttam studied sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka, he was uninterested in pursuing a career in that field and chose to create artistic tattoos for a living instead. Before getting admitted to the University of Dhaka, Uttam realised that he had a knack for tattooing.
He initially learned the art of tattooing on his own. One of his friends, who got a tattoo on his body by Uttam, bought him a tattoo machine from the US. His interest in tattoo art, regular practice, YouTube lessons, cultural studies and finally tutelage from India and Nepal have enabled him to attain dexterity in the art form.
Chartered by customers via a phone call, he regularly tattoos in Dhaka, Chattogram, Nepal and India earning around Tk45000 to 50000 per month. Tattoo art incorporates several cultures across the world. Uttam has so far done a number of different tattoos that were realistic, symbolic, mythical, musical, or ritualistic which encompassed Bangladeshi, Indian, Nepalese, Melanesian and Polynesian cultures.
"As I have grown, so has my understanding of the art. I constantly seek to learn, innovate and create new designs and templates that can capture the attention of my customers," said Uttam. "Each design I create is authentic and different. I try to offer the best and most attractive tattoo designs whether it is symbols or images so that my clients can express their feelings and identity," he added.
Sharing one of his most memorable tattooing experiences, Uttam recalled, "One day, James, whom I consider to be my little brother, approached me to get his deceased mother's portrait on his chest. He only had one photo to remember her by so I tattooed a portrait of her with my utmost sincerity and passion."
Uttam follows some basic rules for tattooing. One must be at least 18 to get tattooed and cannot have diabetes, allergies or rashes.