By: Claire Nenninger
Photos by: Marie Hoopes
Tattoos. Where ink, needle, and skin meet to create art that lasts a lifetime. If you know me, you know I’ve recently become obsessed with tattoos. I always liked the way they looked on others, especially when unique and well-done, but never saw myself getting one. That all changed while I was abroad in Sydney, Australia, where tattoos are ubiquitous and visible thanks to the warm climate. Tattoos quickly became all I could think of, and by the time I left Australia I had gotten my first one.
The thing about tattoos is that for many, if not most, they are a slippery slope; once you get one, you want more. This was certainly my experience. Sadly though, after blowing through all of my savings in Australia, I have not yet saved-up the proper funds to get more ink. Luckily though, I can live vicariously through some of my fellow Hoyas.
While working on this project, I encountered people who admitted that they don’t know many, or any, Hoyas who have tattoos. While this hasn’t been my exact experience, I will admit Georgetown certainly doesn’t appear to be well-tatted – at least from the outside. I suspect, however, that many people have ink not easily visible in daily interactions. So this piece is equally for anyone on the Hilltop who has ink themselves, has friends who do, or anyone who thinks that Georgetown is a tattoo-less wasteland.
I decided to showcase the ink anonymously, sans names and faces. You may recognize a friend of yours or you may not. Tattoos are very personal, but I want to show them here as standalone art, not as an exhibit of humans. I’ve included an explanation of the meaning behind certain pieces, while the others you can just admire for their aesthetic beauty.
“Still I Rise”
By Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
“My tattoo is a quote from my favorite novel, On The Road by Jack Kerouac. The full quote is as follows: ‘…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn…’ I chose to get this permanently etched into my body to acknowledge my weakness and to strive for happiness. The word ‘mad’ can be interpreted in a few ways, but I interpret it both as insane and, as Kerouac’s intention, excited. When I am feeling weak or when life makes no sense, sometimes I feel like I’m insane to keep on living. I feel completely mad. It’s times like these that I need to remind myself that “mad” can also mean excited. I don’t want to live a life that I simply endure. I want to be what Kerouac spoke of – to live madly and desirous of everything.”
“A woman’s voice is revolutionary.” A women’s protest slogan from Egypt.
“Even when you think you aren’t, know that you are enough.”
“For her, who saw what she saw of life and remained prideful, resisting.” The dedication in Jabra Ibrahim Jabra’s novel In Search of Walid Masoud.