Tattoo contest leaves a mark
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.
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.