On Monday, 13 February 2017, I had a tattoo appointment at Kuro Tattoo Studio located in Jakarta. Upon arrival, I was then greeted by the receptionist whom left me intrigued at first sight as she was fully covered in tattoos.
I had been to many tattoo parlors in Indonesia, and not once had I seen a fully tattooed woman at any of those places, therefore it was quite a rare sight for me. I was interested to know her point-of-view and experiences as a fully tatted female living in Indonesia, so I had to ask for an interview.
Indonesia is considered as a quite conservative country, so I was curious as to how the public reacts to tattoos. This left me wondering if it is the same as Japan, where tattoos are still linked to gangster/ yakuza/ criminal/ drug/ etc, therefore feared upon.
Kak (older person) Vina, is a 28 year old Indonesian woman from Cianjur, a small town in the West Java province of Indonesia. She got her first tattoo at 18 right after high school. When asked why she decided to get her first tattoo, she said that she was curious and fascinated and her first one got her addicted. Although she has had her whole body covered, areas above the neck are still considered off limits, for the reason that she regularly visits her family where the residents are still unfamiliar with the idea of tattoos as art, rather still linked to gangs and drugs.
There are definitely advantages and disadvantages of being a fully tattooed female in Indonesia. When travelling out in public, Kak Vina sometimes get stared at and whispered on whenever her tattoos are visible. There were moments when people would scream out “Astaghfirullahaladzim!!”, as if she was a monster the moment they laid eyes on her, but it never affects her clothing decision.
One of the best things that were not possible without her tattoos, she said, are the endorsement opportunities she receives from various types of companies. Although that kind of exposure has a negative side effect. She explained that there are often a lot of men who are “modus” * (Indonesian Slang), who would ask her out on dates.
Even though tattoos are still not entirely accepted in Indonesia, she explained, it is now becoming more and more socially acceptable as people start to view them as art. The exact year of the sudden change, Kak Vina estimated, to be around 2014 – 2015, cause is unclear, yet from my personal point-of-view, the western culture has definitely influenced quite a lot of Indonesia’s tattoo culture, particularly in big cities like Jakarta.
* MODUS : is an Indonesian slang word which mean you are making an excuse to do something but actually your purpose is another thing. [Handiramy 2014]
Handiramy. 2014, Signs You Are Despo, handiramy’s blog, weblog, viewed 15 February 2017, <https://handiramy.wordpress.com/tag/modus-indonesian-slang/>.
kurotat2. 2017, Natasha and Vina, Kuro Tattoo Studio, Jakarta.
Vina. 2017, @fienaaraditya, Instagram, Jakarta, viewed 15 February 2017, <https://www.instagram.com/fienaaraditya/>.