The Ink Link is an ongoing project at CN&CO that showcases the diversity of tattoos. 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 only “some” people get a tattoo. 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 month’s blog is by our Durban based Josie.

Nelly is 25 years old and lives in an informal settlement close to my home in Salt Rock, KZN. She is my housekeeper’s neighbour, and has come to help out at our home a bit this holiday while our nanny is on leave.

I noticed a tattoo on Nelly’s arm yesterday and asked her a few questions.

She got it when she was 16. She says she was very young and didn’t really think it through. A friend from the neighbourhood did it for her with a needle. What I found innovative and interesting is that the ink the friend used was from black plastic Zulu bangles (pictured below) I know so well. The artist pierces the skin with the needle, then melts the black bangle to produce a black plastic ink and then infuse the ink into the skin leaving a very realistic and long lasting tattoo.

Zulu bangles – melted and used as tattoo ink

I asked Nelly what the tattoo says and she says they told her they were writing her name in Chinese. I can’t read Chinese and nor can she ! so we aren’t sure if that’s what it in fact says! Anyone out there who can verify for us?

Nelly remembers being in big trouble with her family at the time and now wishes she could have it removed. I suggested maybe one day designing something special and beautiful to go over the existing tattoo?!