Too comfortable in their own skin

While the exposed skins were meant for the tattoos to be judged and admired, netizens saw only nudity


MALAYSIANS got riled up again. This time — over too much skin.

The Tattoo Malaysia Expo 2019/ International Tattoo Expo 2019, which took place from Nov 29 to Dec 1 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, drew so much flak that many questioned why and how it was permitted in the first place.

The event, organised by Blackout Trading, had the support of the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac), attracted over 130 traditional and modern tattoo artists from 34 countries including Malaysia, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Croatia, Samoa, Mexico, Tunisia and Finland. Nothing says “legit” better than having the government’s green light.

Although she was not there, looking at the images, this writer imagines that the expo did not disappoint its visitors who paid RM74.20 for a one-day pass and RM190.80 for a weekend pass.

They got to meet their favourite tattoo artists from all over the world, see or get some great inking action including the traditional bamboo tattoo method, and watch live band performances.

There was also a competition for the best tattoos, and this was where the fun ended for the organisers when photographs went viral.

The contestants displayed their best works on “body canvases”, they are after all tattoo artists and not painters.

Most of the models, if not all, of both genders, stood half naked before a crowd. Some only protected their privacy with thong or string underwear, while the audience stared and cameras flashed.

Pictures and videos of this portion of the event made their way around social media, to the disbelief of many.

While the exposed skins were meant for the tattoos to be judged and admired, netizens saw only nudity. Do they see the same thing when they watch bodybuilding competitions on TV1?

Motac said, while they supported the event, they never gave permission to show any form of nudity and the police said they would investigate.

Blackout Trading on Tuesday released an apology statement, admitting their shortcomings when they failed to provide a full disclosure on the event’s activities.

While the organiser insisted that the ministry should not be blamed, some may wonder: “It’s a tattoo expo, what did the ministry expect — buttoned up collars and trousers?”

Extensive baring of the skin should have been expected from the get-go, especially when there were international participants, who probably were not aware of Malaysia’s more modest nature.

Public outrage, however, could have been avoided if everyone practiced moderation. The issue here is not the tattoos — but nudity — which is not only offensive in Malaysia, but in many other countries and cultures as well.

We should respect tattoo as a form of self-expression and culture appreciation and give its enthusiasts a platform to showcase and celebrate. Simultaneously, champions of the body art should reciprocate by tightening up their do’s and don’ts.

Tattoo expos have been held before in Sabah, Sarawak and Melaka, with the backing of respective state governments sans any outcry.

This goes to show that such events could and should be held in Malaysia, as they allow us to learn more about arts and cultures. Just keep in mind that everything has it borders and limits.

Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.