Usually the Ink Link focuses on someone who is already inked and how that affects life from their perspective. This month features an Ink Link “possibility”, someone who currently has no tattoos and explains why her views have changed, with the possibility of ink in her near future.

Adapted from an interview with Lilian

Lilian never considered getting a tattoo until she was well into her late twenties. Coming from a middle class family she was always aware of how she “presented” herself. While her family was generally liberal (to the extent that being Canadian expats grants you by default) it was drummed into her head from a young age that tattoos would always manifest themselves in life as a regret . An inevitable mistake. Something that would close doors in her life that she wouldn’t be able to open again. Lilian was fascinated by body art, but it always existed as something for other people. It took almost 30 years for her to start challenging the way she viewed tattoos in relation to her own body and life.

At 29 Lilian looked around her and realised that she had made life decisions that had taken her to a very different place compared to the one she had seen for herself at 21. She had always intended to work in human rights law, but an interest in international law of armed conflict and humanitarian response took her somewhat off the beaten track. After completing a masters degree in international human rights and humanitarian law, Lilian spent a few years working in Kenya and Somalia. She took a few months out to qualify as a New York attorney, only to high-tail it back to the field and continue to work in beautiful and interesting places like Uganda and Afghanistan.

Some of Bluestone Babe’s work

Her employment record spans NGOs and UN agencies, often working very closely with governments. Diverse work attracts diverse people and Lilian’s experiences with people from all walks of life has shifted her perspective on tattoos and bodyart. She knows highly respected professionals inked to the fingertips, whose body art has no bearing on their work, as it simply is not an issue.

She has also worked with women from communities where facial tattoos are the norm. Lilian realised that her perception of tattoos as unprofessional is a white, middle class notion that is fundamentally elitist and serves to exclude people and cultures from ‘professional’ spheres.

“I believe that this needs to be challenged, and that slowly this is happening” says Lilian.

With that in mind Lilian has decided to get inked. She discovered an amazing artist Bluestone Babe whose feminist ethos and designs really spoke to her. Lilian plans to travel to New York to get her first tattoo this year. She is thinking of starting small. No sleeves anytime soon.

“I think tattoos today are viewed as piercings were ten years ago. Once considered edgy and subversive, these days many people have cartilage or nose piercings and people barely bat an eyelid. The world has moved on in terms of limiting what you can do based on how you look.”