The Ink Link is an ongoing project at CN&CO that showcases tattoos in the workplace. One of the great things about a tattoo is that it goes against the commonly-held viewpoint that “what you see is what you get”. There’s a misguided belief in certain quarters that in order to be a working professional, it is categorically *impossible* to have a tattoo… because how can someone with a tattoo be a professional? We are putting paid to that perception through the stories showcased in the Ink Link. If you or anyone you know would like to be featured, please get in contact with us.

As it is women’s month I saw it fit to feature some of the amazing sisters in my life that have tattoos. These represent friendships I’ve made at the early stages of my teens, as well as newly formed friendships. This, to also say that though I’m not a tattoo fanatic, some of my greatest friendships were formed with women with tattoos. Here’s what they had to say:

Bandile Hlantshwayo

  • What is the significance of your tattoo(s)?
    My first tattoo is butterflies within a butterfly – the small ones make up a shape of a bigger butterfly. In this butterfly, the smaller butterflies are taking off. I got this tattoo shortly after my gran’s passing. It represents me finally accepting her death and finally letting go, hence the butterflies “flying off”. And, my second is on my collarbone. It’s “love” translated in Thai. I got this one on my family vacation at Thailand in 2017. The tattoo represents me still believing in love especially after my breakup/heartbreak.
  • How did the procedure in Thailand differ from that used by tattoo artists in SA?
    Not so much difference in procedure, but there is certainly a cultural difference. In Thailand, no one is allowed to enter the room with shoes on, this for hygienic reasons. I must say though, I was treated with utter most care.

Nombulelo Broro

  • What is the significance of your tattoo(s)?
    It’s a tattoo of identical sunflowers. This representing that “you’re in charge of your own happiness”.
  • I know you had no plan of getting a tattoo. What made you change your mind – How did you come to a decision to acquire your very first tattoo?
    Yes, I was not planning on getting one ever. The decision was abrupt. I was so upset one afternoon that I took a walk, all for waffles and ice cream. I was walking past the parlour that there and then, I made a decision to get a permanent mood-lifter

Tshepiso Makhari

  • What is the significance of your tattoo(s)?
    I have seven tattoos in total, but only two hold true meanings and the others I got because they looked cool back then. The first tattoo is written “Born Live Die”. Simply put it’s the cycle of life. I think I was just angry at the world at this point. I had just left high school and felt my life had no direction. My second tattoo is a star. This one is actually one of my favourites. It represents my uniqueness.
  • At what age did you get your first tattoo and what was the reaction from your family and friends?
    I was 19 at the time. My friends weren’t surprised because I always spoke of how much I want to get a tattoo. My family on the other hand was horrified and never wanted to see them. They prefer them hidden.

Lebohang Sibeko

  • What is the significance of your tattoo(s)?
    I got my first tattoo at 21. Surprisingly my mom liked it and was okay with it. Though I think it’s because she didn’t have to pay for it. I now have six tattoos total. I have two which hold significant meanings. One is embodied with the meaning of my name “Thankful for life” and the other is written, “I find strength in pain” – I got this one when I was going through a really tough time in 2017 and needed some therapeutic relief. After I got through everything it made me realise that no matter how tough things are you always get through it no matter how much pain you have to go through.
  • When getting a job have you been looked down on for having a tattoo(s) or would you say tattoos are becoming more acceptable in the workplace?
    In terms of them being accepted in the workplace, I genuinely believe it depends on the type of environment/ field of work one goes into. Most corporate companies are okay with it, but I have had to be mindful of where I place my tattoos because I want work with kids one day and unfortunately the bad stigma around tattoos still remains.

Lorraine Lamola

  • What is the significance of your tattoo(s)?
    I tragically lost my brother when I was nine. So I wanted to permanently and constantly have a reminder of him. What better way than a tattoo. The tat is an infinity sign with Lolo and his birth date.
  • Do people question your morals or character because you have a tattoo?
    Definitely! Not only is my tat visible but it’s also on my neck. I get a lot of “what about work”? I don’t think the ink affected my brain so that shouldn’t affect my ability to function or my intellect. If you’re questioning someone’s morals for having tats maybe check yours

Manoko Mokunutlu

What is the significance of your tattoo(s)?

  • I’ve got three tattoos. One is a butterfly. I love butterflies, they are very rare creatures and hard to find. So at some point I felt like a butterfly.The second tattoo is a message to my dad which says, “even though you are gone, you still live on in my heart and I will always love you dad…Francis Mokunutlu.” I did this tattoo just after my dad passed. This would always be a reminder that he will always be a part of me and that he is with me everywhere I go – proud and always smiling down on me. [Cover Image]My last tattoo is written, “Still I rise”. This was inspired by a quote by Maya Angelou. I did this tattoo after so many times of falling apart. But because God is a faithful Father, His grace is sufficient and He able, He carried me through. I’ve risen from all the things that could’ve killed me and I survived.
  • Suppose you later regret your decision; have you already thought about perhaps having the tattoo removed?
    I don’t have regrets about my tattoos and I doubt I’ll ever do. I honestly never regret anything that makes me smile because at one point it was exactly what I wanted. I’d never have them removed because they hold a great meaning in my life. Though I doubt I’ll have anymore more added – I’m over tattoos.

Phumzile Mbuli

  • What is the significance of your tattoo(s)?
    I have my niece’s name on my foot Botshelo (which means ‘Life’) she was my mom’s first grandchild and literally brought life to our family.
  • What are the common misconception people have about people with tattoo(s)?
    People automatically assume you are anti-Christ when you have a tattoo.


I’ve particularly enjoyed reading these stories. I have learnt a thing or two about self-expression, courage and boldness. Thank you for sharing…