Ernst van der Wal is a senior lecturer in the visual arts department of Stellenbosch University. His tattoos cover his arms and neck and tell a really cool story.

Carel put us on to Ernst as a potential Ink Link interviewee after meeting him through Frans Smit, who recently painted a portrait of Carel (which he uses as his WhatsApp image). Frans’s partner, Nico du Toit, is the brother of Elite Risk Acceptances MD Christelle Colman, who Carel married to SHA’s Simon Colman a few years ago.

“This is why it’s called the Ink Link,” says Carel. “Because there’s ink everywhere and there are links everywhere.”

Ernst and Frans are also involved in an upcoming CN&CO event, Bandito Art, which takes place in May. But more about that in another blog.

We sent Ernst a few questions about his tattoos, which he answered by voice note. You can listen to the recording below… but here are some of the highlights.

  • The university is quite often seen as a conservative environment, but one that I find extremely stimulating. In many ways it links to my ideas around tattoos. I see tattoos as something that are quite often seen as controversial, but to me they’re not necessarily so. 
  • When you walk around with tattoos on campus it is something that sometimes get a raised eyebrow or it makes people think that you’re not really intelligent enough or that you’re not really academic enough. So in many ways it’s something that can fool people, but it’s also something that allows you to surprise them, or to shock them. 
  • Tattoos – and also piercings – are ways in which I get to express myself and ways in which I get to engage with this environment in a novel and creative way. Tattoos to me are really very liberating when it comes to such institutions and such places that quite often seem to be somewhat stagnant or stuck or conservative. 
  • My tattoos are like children that I carry around. I love each and every one of them.  
  • I don’t really care about the world’s opinion of my body. This is something that gives me pleasure and this is something that I will do with as I feel like. Tattoos speak of an experience of agency that is extremely important to me and it was a way for me to claim and reclaim my own body and to make sense of who I am. 
  • In all tattoos were one of the best things I could have done… something I will never regret. I look forward to the idea of my skin being evermore covered and being grown over with ink. It’s something I will do until the day I die.  

Ernst also speaks about his recent exhibition at SMAC Stellenbosch entitled invasion, dealing with his conceptual concerns around the age of the Anthropocene – how we see ourselves as human beings and how we orientate ourselves towards the world around us. 

Listen to Ernst’s voice note below:

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.

For more CN&CO stories to help you grow your business and lead your best life, follow us on @cnandco.