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 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. This instalment is by CN&CO’s Allan Bader.
Man, this came up quickly. I had been wondering for months what to talk about/ who to interview for my first go at our InkLink Blog. I had thought about doing it on tattoos that you regret or take some ridicule for. (Those who know me, know why I initially thought of this topic.) I decided against this as it would be too self-serving and the easy way out. Instead, I got hold of a hockey mate of mine. Tyronne Veltman, or Tyza as he is known to most, and I have known each other for a few years now and he has recently joined my winter league club side, at Crusaders Hockey Club. So now we get to see more of him, and his sleeve.
He also recently moved back to South Africa after a few years teaching English in Thailand. It was this aspect that got me thinking about the stigma of having a tattoo and then also being a teacher.
Allan Bader: When did you get your first tat, and what made you want to get it?
Tyronne Veltman: I got my first tattoo in my second year at university, in 2008. I had always liked tattoos and piercings and had wanted tattoos for as long as I can remember. The first one I got was a lyric from a song that just stuck with me and seemed like a good choice for a first tattoo. The script on the inside of my arm is a paraphrasing of the lyrics by Incubus from the song “Nice to know you“. The words read “blessed is she who clearly sees the wood for the trees” which to me, means that you should always take a step back and look at the bigger picture but never so much that you stop seeing the sum of the parts as well. So basically, there’s always more to something than what meets the eye. I think this tattoo and phrase will resonate with me until I get buried underneath those trees.
AB: After your first one, was it the stereotypical, “once the bug has bitten” story?
TV: Yeah, it was but also, like I said, I have always wanted tattoos, so I think I entered getting my first tattoo already knowing that it wouldn’t be my last. And I don’t think I have stopped just yet. I plan on getting a few more. I have another tattoo on my ribs and a sleeve on my right arm. It isn’t finished yet, I’m not sure it will ever be finished.
AB: Which is your favourite?
TV: My favourite is the Mandala with the King Proteas on my right forearm because it was my first colour piece which was designed by a friend of mine and I think it’s the best tattoo I have in terms of how it was completed as well as its meaning, which is just a little shout out to say “proudly South African”. In fact, my sleeve was intended to follow a South African theme which is why the Polynesian pattern resembles the shapes found in the SA flag.
AB: You’re a former teacher at a private school in Joburg, what were their thoughts on your tattoos? Did you feel you were looked down on?
TV: Their thoughts on tattoos was that, as long as they were “tasteful” then it was okay, which I thought was pretty cool. It also gave me the confidence to get more while I was teaching there. Granted I did have to remove my tongue ring when I started , and I hadn’t begun with the full sleeve yet so there wasn’t much visible for them to criticise. At first, I tried covering my wrist tattoo with a watch but failed miserably, so I soon gave up on that without asking the head of School. And again, what was cool about her, was that I felt that she never had the need to speak to me about it.
AB: How, if any way, was this different to teaching in Thailand and their reaction, where they, to my limited knowledge, appreciate tattooing more than back in SA?
TV: I cannot speak to what it is like in the more rural/traditional areas of Thailand, but in Phuket, tattoos are everywhere. A large number of Thai’s have traditional tattoos from Monks which carry different blessings and protections. I’d say that the experience in Thailand was a lot more accepting of my tattoos. While I think that it depends on the school at which one teaches, but I never had any problems with my tattoos while I was there. I would certainly agree that South Africa is still rather conservative in its views towards body art.
AB: You and I are (He)brews, are you a practicing one and how did this impact your decision to get the first and subsequent tattoos?
TV: I am not a practicing Jew and, to be honest, the implications of getting a tattoo as a Jew never entered my mind.
AB: Did you ever see/hear teaching staff in either countries talking about your tattoos?
TV: Hahaha Yes. While I can’t recall anything specific but the native Thai teachers were usually the ones who would ask about and touch my tattoos. The foreign staff were more…subtle.