Tat­too con­test leaves a mark

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - BY NYO ME

FOR two days, se­ri­ous tat­too en­thu­si­asts de­scended on Yan­gon’s Kan­daw­gyi Palace Ho­tel to cel­e­brate their pas­sion at the the 2nd Tat­too Con­test, hosted by Myan­mar Tra­di­tional Tat­too Ar­tis Fam­ily (MTTAF) on Septem­ber 10 and 11.

Nearly 70 artists – all male – came to Yan­gon from around the coun­try, in­clud­ing Man­dalay, Magwe, Sa­gaing, Tanintharyi re­gions, Nay Pyi Taw and Mon State. Their goal? To com­pete for prizes by ink­ing their friends with new art.

Eight artists would go on to win, with four of them win­ning two prizes each. Nga Loom and Ko Zar Ni each placed in the top three de­signs on both days, with Nga Loom win­ning 1st place for Black-and-Gray de­signs on Septem­ber 10 and Phoe Ni win­ning 1st place in the same cat­e­gory on Septem­ber 11.

For colour tat­toos, Soe Lay won the Septem­ber 10 award while ASO won the Septem­ber 11 recog­ni­tion. All prizes were tat­too sup­plies pro­vided by World Fa­mous tat­too ink com­pany in Thai­land.

Tut Pee, from Man­dalay Ink tat­too stu­dio, said that the Myan­mar neigh­bour ac­tu­ally gave the or­gan­is­ers the idea for the com­pe­ti­tion.

“We stole the idea to make a group from the Bangkok tat­too show. It started out with just five of us, and when our first con­test was held, only 30 tat­too artists from Yan­gon came to par­tic­i­pate. We had a theme of ‘Myan­mar Tra­di­tional Tat­toos’, but this year we de­cided not to set one. Con­tes­tants could tat­too any de­sign they liked,” he said.

Tut Pee cred­ited other artists Ko Zay, Ko Kalar, Ko Ye Kyaw and Ko Naing Gyi with help­ing him launch the show­case. More than 40 tat­toos were cre­ated per day, most of them at least 6 inches long. Con­tes­tants had to com­plete their de­signs, on friends they pre-se­lected, within seven hours.

The re­sult­ing art rep­re­sented a sharp im­prove­ment over last year’s sub­mis­sions.

“There are a lot of good tat­toos this time,” said judge Ko Zaw Gyi, from Heaven tat­too stu­dio. “It is dif­fi­cult to judge, and a lot of the win­ners have al­most the same scores.”

Cat­e­gories in­cluded Lines, Shad­ing, Colour Tone, Cre­ation and Spe­cial Tech­nique, with the 10-per­son judge­ing panel as­sign­ing scores for each com­po­nent of the tat­too. Tat­too Bird, a Thai artist who won first prize in Thai­land’s World Fa­mous Tat­too Con­test ear­lier this year, served on the panel and said Myan­mar’s tat­too cul­ture is unique.

“One bet­ter thing here [than in Thai­land] is that Myan­mar tat­too artists do not com­pletely copy othe pic­tures,” he said. “And if they do copy, they usu­ally com­bine it with their own ideas, in­spired by in­ter­na­tional styles such as Amer­i­can meth­ods,” Bird said.

Tun Ko was one such com­peti­tor. Based at Monywa Ink in Monywa, he com­pleted a tat­too of a Tum­bling Kelly – the Burmese doll toy known as pyit tine htaung – wear­ing a mous­tache. He said his style had grown since he be­gan in 2007.

“I remix Myan­mar tra­di­tional tat­toos with mod­ern ef­fects to make a state­ment,” he said.

Like all the other con­tes­tants, Tun Ko had to choose the peo­ple who he wanted to tat­too. Some com­peti­tors ne­go­ti­ated with their sub­jects on what they wanted ver­sus the artist’s vi­sion, but he said oth­ers were more straight­for­ward: What they dreamed was what they de­liv­ered, no mat­ter the sub­ject’s opin­ion.

On the side­lines of the com­pe­ti­tion, live col­lec­tive tat­too­ing and paint­ing by artists of­fered other ways for guests to par­tic­i­pate in the event. A tat­too fash­ion show even gave some a chance to sport their ink proudly.

“The com­pe­ti­tion tat­toos are re­ally good,” said Thin­zar, who at­tended the event. “They are all good, but I like Myan­mar tra­di­tional tat­toos the most.”

An­other guest, Zu Zu Man Aung, said her par­ents would not ap­prove if she had a prom­i­nent tat­too, but that an “in­signif­i­cant spot” might do. She ad­mit­ted a fear of nee­dles, but said she still wants to try out the style. “I would like to tat­too the word, ‘af­fec­tion’ on my back,” she said. MTTAF was es­tab­lished in 2009, and held their first con­test in Jan­uary 2016. Be­yond con­tests, the group or­gan­isses meet­ings, work­shops and even ex­tracur­ric­u­lar meet-ups to play foot­ball. There are cur­rently more than 100 mem­bers.

Pho­tos: Nyo Me

Tun Ko uses his tat­too gun to draw a Tum­bling Kelly doll wear­ing a mous­tache.

A man mod­els his tat­too dur­ing the event’s fash­ion show.

Two con­test at­ten­dees hang out­side The Shangri La. At­ten­dees snap pho­tos of other fash­ion show par­tic­i­pants.

Tut Pee, from Man­dalay Ink tat­too stu­dio, paints dur­ing the event.

A con­tes­tant in Yan­gon’s 2nd Tat­too Con­test etches his de­sign into a will­ing re­cip­i­ent.

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