STORY BY: SARAH AGYEKUM (LEVEL 300), PRISCILLA AFENYI (DP 1), LINDA NYARKO (DP 1) and DOLLY ADDAI (DP1)
An artist, tertiary students and a dermatologist have disclosed certain concerns about the art of tattooing which has gained grounds among majority of the youth. Tattooing in Africa dates back thousands of years in Egypt. The oldest known tattoos belonged to the mummy of Amunet, a priestess of the goddess Hathor between 2160BC TO 1994BC. The design found on her mummy was believed to be symbols of fertility and rejuvenation.
Tattoos in Africa started in the form of tribal marks, which currently persists in most cultures in Northern Ghana, Nuer in Uganda and Yoruba in Nigeria. About three years ago in Ghana, the art was trendy among Ghanaian women, mostly traders. The art was used as a form of identification where names, addresses and hometowns of these women were inscribed on their forearms. Tattoo is a puncture wound, made through penetrating the skin with a needle and injecting ink into the area to create some form of design. Over the last few years, tattoos have become common among Ghanaians especially the youth; who find it vogue, hot and trendy. Currently, tattoo seems to be the order of the day with footballers, movie and music stars seen in different designs and sizes.
In an interview with GIJ Online News, a tattooist and an artiste at the Accra Art Centre, Victor Annan (popularly known as Adnan Sanni) hinted that the process of tattooing hurts and the fee for a normal tattoo is GH20.00. He however stated that because there is a need for the design, those who want it do not complain much. In his view, the needles are sterilized in the presence of the individual and given to the same person to dispose them off after the design is completed. He also mentioned that majority of the designs are used for identification and some for the fun of it. He added that since he started tattooing the skin of people, he has never received any report of skin cancer.
According to a man with a tattooed skin, the pain gets normalized after the art is completed and he does it daily. “The designing process really hurts but after a while, it’s normal. I do 31 tattoos in a month but I have never encountered any skin cancer so far. I use it for identification so that I am not displaced. Another lover of tattoo who happens to be my friend has the design of the rosary because he is a Catholic. This helps to identify him as such,” he said.
A petrochemical engineering student of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Gilbert Nana Kwame Dwamena said he does not fancy tattoos because the end product can be cancer. “I don’t fancy tattoos a little bit. I don’t see the sense in scribbling a design on the skin. If the tattoo is not done the right way, it can result in cancer. I will not advice anyone to engage in that,” he said.
A Communication Studies student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), Adams Abdallah Alhassan, expressed his thoughts. “I don’t often see people with tattoos. However, the few I see, which is two out of five, look original. I have a stereotypical position on those who tattoo their bodies which is supposedly described as the temple of God. I don’t think it is part of the African or Ghanaian culture,” he said.
Mathias Nyaka, a mechanical engineering student also from KNUST, stated that tattooing is some form of branding in the view of those who love it; whereas the haters see it as a sign of no seriousness. He also mentioned that tattooing fits the entertainment world better than other places.
According to Rebecca Aliliya, a trainee journalist of GIJ, tattooing is bad because the same tools may be used on several people who might visit the studios. This, she said can lead to contracting diseases.
Dr. Ariel Ostad MD, dermatologist, a mole surgeon in private practice in New York and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York University of medicine has been evaluating patients with tattoos for the past decade for any evidence of skin cancer. To him, such prevalence of the disease has never been found in any of those individuals. People who have had skin cancers are at a higher risk of developing future skin cancers but tattoos, he added do not increase that risk.
However, it is not a good idea to have tattoos placed too close or within a mole. Changes occurring in a mole that is the symmetry, border, color, size, shape and texture are potential key warning signs that the lesion may be evolving into a melanoma or another form of skin cancer. Tattoos should be placed very far from moles and especially to people with several moles since they are at a very increased risk of developing melanoma.
Other fairly uncommon skin risks associated with tattoos include allergic reaction towards some tattoo inks and infections immediately following the tattoo placement which is normally treated with antibiotics (2009 edition of the sun and skin:www.skincancer.org)