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Ink comfort: Vietnamese women find healing with tattoos

Just four percent of Vietnamese have tattoos, according to a small survey. It also suggested that 25 percent of the people "feel scared" on seeing body art.

April 09, 2021 / 01:42 PM IST
Although attitudes are changing, tattoos remain associated with gangsters, prostitution and the criminal underground in the communist, broadly conservative country. (Image: AFP)
Although attitudes are changing, tattoos remain associated with gangsters, prostitution and the underworld in communist and broadly conservative Vietnam. (Image: AFP)
"I met many women who told me they loved tattoos but they were born at a time when no-one supported them," Ngoc, who goes by the name "Ngoc Like", told AFP. But some are choosing to push back against those old ideas, seeing body art as emancipation from some of the rigid societal norms they have lived by. (Image: AFP)
"I met many women who told me they loved tattoos but they were born at a time when no one supported them," Ngoc, who goes by the name "Ngoc Like", told AFP. But some are choosing to push back against those old ideas, seeing body art as emancipation from some of the rigid societal norms they have lived by. (Image: AFP)
Getting inked is often a landmark moment in these women's lives, Ngoc, 28, says. "They have overcome that fear of social prejudice and have a personal wish to renew themselves... to open a new chapter in life." (Image: AFP)
Getting inked is often a landmark moment in these women's lives, Ngoc, 28, says. "They have overcome that fear of social prejudice and have a personal wish to renew themselves... to open a new chapter in life." (Image: AFP)
Educated and business-savvy, Ngoc was ridiculed when she started out as a tattoo artist less than a decade ago -- with many assuming she did not go into the industry out of choice. But she has since built up a solid, mostly female clientele. (Image: AFP)
Educated and business-savvy, Ngoc was ridiculed when she started out as a tattoo artist less than a decade ago —with many assuming she did not go into the industry out of choice but she has since built up a solid, mostly female clientele. (Image: AFP)
Just four percent of Vietnamese have tattoos, according to a small survey in 2015 by Vietnam market research firm Q&Me, the most recent data available. It also suggested that 25 percent of people "feel scared" when seeing body art. (Image: AFP)
Just four percent of Vietnamese have tattoos, according to a small survey in 2015, the most recent data that is available, by Vietnam market research firm Q&Me. It also suggested that 25 percent of people "feel scared" when seeing body art. (Image: AFP)
But for Tran Ha Nguyen, a high school teacher, getting a tattoo was an act of celebration following a divorce from her "conservative and rigid" husband. After the separation, the 41-year-old told AFP she wanted a clean break from her old self and to do things she would never have dared do in her previous life. She chose a daisy design for her thigh, high enough that no-one can see it unless she is in a bikini. (Image: AFP)
But for Tran Ha Nguyen, a high school teacher, getting a tattoo was an act of celebration following a divorce from her "conservative and rigid" husband. After the separation, the 41-year-old told AFP she wanted a clean break from her old self and to do things she would never have dared do in her previous life. She chose a daisy design for her thigh, high enough that no-one can see it unless she is in a bikini. (Image: AFP)
"It's just one small tattoo but I feel I have found my true self," Nguyen said. Also recovering from trauma, 46-year-old Nguyen Hong Thai chose a rose tattoo over a scar on her stomach, and the words "forever in my heart" on her arm, months after her husband died of lung cancer. (Image: AFP)
"It's just one small tattoo but I feel I have found my true self," Nguyen said. Also recovering from trauma, 46-year-old Nguyen Hong Thai chose a rose tattoo over a scar on her stomach, and the words "forever in my heart" on her arm, months after her husband died of lung cancer. (Image: AFP)
He had always wanted her to get inked. "Now he's gone, I think he would have wanted me to be strong, to be the person I had always been with him." "The tattoos have given me strength and confidence (to do that)", said Thai, with a huge smile. (Image: AFP)
He had always wanted her to get inked. "Now he's gone, I think he would have wanted me to be strong, to be the person I had always been with him." "The tattoos have given me strength and confidence (to do that)," said Thai, with a huge smile. (Image: AFP)
Ngoc has decided to focus her tattooing work on women with scars, both physical and mental. Demand is growing -- her schedule is completely full, she says. Her clients in Hanoi, where average monthly income per capita is less than $500, are often willing to spend double that amount on their body art. (Image: AFP)
Ngoc has decided to focus her tattooing work on women with scars, both physical and mental. Demand is growing—her schedule is completely full, she says. Her clients in Hanoi, where the average monthly income per capita is less than $500, are often willing to spend double that amount on their body art. (Image: AFP)
One of them, 33-year-old office worker Huong -- not her real name -- has felt ashamed of her body since appendicitis surgery 14 years ago left her with an "ugly" vertical scar. Her eyes shut tight in anxiety, Huong lies on the chair, waiting for the needle to begin its march across her midriff. Hours later, looking in the mirror at a string of pink flowers across her stomach, a grin breaks out over Huong's face. (Image: AFP)
One of them, 33-year-old office worker Huong—not her real name—felt ashamed of her body since appendicitis surgery 14 years ago left her with an "ugly" vertical scar. Her eyes shut tight in anxiety, Huong lies on the chair, waiting for the needle to begin its march across her midriff. Hours later, looking in the mirror at a string of pink flowers across her stomach, a grin breaks out over Huong's face. (Image: AFP)
AFP
first published: Apr 9, 2021 01:42 pm

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