The Ambassadorial Value of Tattoos

You may remember a little while ago I posted a charming entry about Christopher doing Peace Corps (I’ll say it again — what’s stopping YOU from joining?) work in Namibia and how the rural kids went curious-crazy over his tattoos, something they’d never seen before to such a large and bright extent.

After seeing that post, Aaron Brink wrote me about his own time over the last two summers spent in Burundi (an African country between DR Congo and Tanzania, just south of Rwanda). Like Christopher’s experience, the people there — and not just the kids — were completely enamored with his tattoos. Everywhere he went he had crowds of people following him and gathering around him trying to get a better look at his tattoos or to touch them. Not recognizing them as tattoos, and wondering if they were some sort of body paint or drawing, many people’s first response was to try and rub them off! These first pictures are from the village of Busiga.

This actually gave him a fun way to break the ice with the kids from the “Homes of Hope Orphanage” — when they broke out the facepaints, the only thing the kids wanted was tattoos of their own on their legs!


If you are able to watch Facebook videos, here’s a clip of kids:

They got a kick out of his piercings as well — this cute little boy named Brian from the orphanage is trying to put a film canister into Aaron’s stretched lobe in this piercing. At this point it is probably more common to see young people in America with stretched lobes than in most parts of Africa, where the traditional body modification practices are limited to certain rural regions and older generations.


Finally, showing that body modification truly knows no boundaries, not just across illusory racial and cultural lines like the people Christopher and Aaron met in Namibia and Burundi respectively, but also across species lines! Aaron spent some time with a young chimpanzee named Tina at the “zoo”, and she as well was very curious about his tattoos!!! (In every single picture, it’s all she’s interested in or touching).


AND P.S. Argh! Let me start by saying I feel like a DOPE because I captioned all these photos as being from “Adam” when they are from “Aaron”… and now I’ve gone and saved them and it’s too late at night to change them and still get the rest I need. My sincerest bleary-eyed and clumsy-fingered and calcium-riddled-brain apologies to Adam Aaron.

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

4 thoughts on “The Ambassadorial Value of Tattoos

  1. ive read some pretty scary stories abt how the peace corp deals w/ crimes committed against female volunteers in the past 5 years or so( sweep under the rug variety, bt with weak privacy rights– which in one instance resulted in a female volunteers murder) I’m not afraid of crime, it’s a fact of life, but to volunteer for an organization that doesn’t offer solid help for their volunteers after they have been victimized, turned me off from wanting to join entirely, which is really too bad, because i love the idea.

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