How one artist battled stigma to build a tattoo empire Gift Moyo

THE tattoo scene in Zimbabwe has flourished, with people of all genders sporting a wide variety of designs. Gone are the days when tattoos were solely associated with criminals.

Today, they’re embraced as a beautiful art form, a means of self-expression and even a form of therapy for some.

Traditionally, tattoos held cultural significance, varying by ethnicity, social standing and gender. This was particularly prevalent in South America. However, with the rise of globalisation, the world has shrunk into a “global village,” and Zimbabwe hasn’t been immune to this trend. Skilled tattoo artists have emerged to meet the growing demand, like Gift Moyo.

Gift runs his studio, “Ink-Stinct,” in the city centre.His artistic talents extend beyond tattoos, encompassing piercings, body art, painting, and even fashion design. His passion for art began in primary school, where it started as a hobby. By Grade Six, his artistic pursuits took a more focused turn, with his first creation being a tattoo for a friend.

Gift credits his initial inspiration to the older boys in his neighbourhood whom he saw drawing. Later, a trip to South Africa further fuelled his passion as he witnessed other artists showcasing the captivating world of tattoo art.

“My first tattoo drawing was on my friend when I was in Grade Six and I got inspired more after visiting South Africa. They had beautiful designs and many people were interested in having tattoos, then I realised that I could take this back home and open my own studio,” he said.

He said he perfected his skills through online tutorials and constant practice, also utilising the teachings he got in high school, where he learnt architecture. He has faced many challenges along the way, including his mother being against the tattoo art.

“When I started, I was faced with many challenges, people used to associate tattoos with bad things, such as gangsters and jail. My mother too was against my drawing tattoos but the more she complained, the more I got the urge to do more.

“Also, the equipment needed is only found outside the country as there is no supplier in our country. Some people also want to pay less money forgetting that I am doing tattoos professionally, not under the tree,” he said.Gift revealed that his clients come to have tattoos done on them for various reasons, stating that for some, it is just a lifestyle.

“My clients say that having a tattoo done on them is therapy, for some it is a lifestyle while some say it is spiritual but I do not know how it gets spiritually connected. Some of them say it is hard for them to tell their story but they tell the story through the tattoo design they come with.

“Their stories vary, those in love would ask me to draw the popular love sign and the name of their loved one. Some come with sad stories, one would request to have a portrait of their late relative done on them. Others come to have tattoos stating the birthdays of their children or the newborn’s footprint. A few come for cultural tattoos, such as having tattoos of the animals representing their totems.

“There is also a unique group that comes while grieving and the pain of the needle piercing their skin becomes therapy for them just like the gym.

“After having the needle poking you for an hour the mind and emotions shift focus and most of these clients confirm that they feel relief afterwards,” he said.



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