Nepal Tattoo Convention 2016: #ThePowerOfWe

No, this headline isn’t another click bait, that intends to get just another pageview from you. The use of the hashtag, #ThePowerOfWe has nothing to do with us starting an hour-long trend on Twitter, or anywhere else. Nor are we posting pictures of the convention on Instagram, using this hashtag. No, this wasn’t a thought out headline, but probably the most befitting one.

We, at TattooCultr, visited Nepal again this year to attend the 6th Nepal Tattoo Convention, which ended the last weekend. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this convention, let us give you a brief background. Started by Bijay Sreshtha, and the pioneering tattoo artist, Mohan Gurung, NTC is the only truly international tattoo convention of the subcontinent. Last year, in its fifth edition, the convention almost crumbled under the wrath of mother nature, as Nepal fought a disastrous earthquake. The 2015 convention ended in sadness and fear, leaving every lover of it unsure of a future. And here we are today, smiling on seeing the success of the sixth edition. And the convention owes all its success to #ThePowerOfWe.

Three artists from three different parts of the world tattooing together. Image credit: Nepal Tattoo Convention

The Nepal Tattoo Convention isn’t your regular tattoo con, where few of the best artists from around the country/world will gather to compete for the top honours. In fact, such is the truthfulness of this convention towards art that the competitions are the last thing in your mind during the three days. From the choice of awards to the sharing of booths, Nepal is all about togetherness, and standing up for each other.

Take this instance, for example. Chandigarh’s famous tattoo artist, Rishabh Narang travelled to Nepal, not as a participating artist, but simply sharing a great time and supporting other fellow artists. During the convention, he received a request to tattoo this lady from Sweden, who had recently got Shiva inked on the left side of her back, and was now keen to complete the story by adding a portrait of the goddess, Parvati. And here, we witnessed the true magic of art, and what it can do and become when artists come together.

(From Left) Laila getting tattooed by Rishabh at Kevin Andrade's (standing) booth.
(From Left) Laila getting tattooed by Rishabh at Kevin Andrade’s (standing) booth.

Enter Day 2. Knowing that he wasn’t tattooing that morning, Kevin Andrade helped Rishabh tattoo his client by sharing his booth space with Rishabh. And not just that. The smile on Rishabh’s face on completion of the tattoo said so much about how happy he felt to work alongside Kevin and Abhinandan Basu, in the Flying Lotus Tattoo booth. As you can see in the picture, Kevin also helped out Rishabh with his setup. What turned out in the end was a tattoo that left Laila (the client) overwhelmed, everyone else starstruck, and deservingly awarded ‘Best Tattoo of the Day’. Rishabh’s piece winning that award was a testament of the fact that this convention is all about standing up for good art.

Image credit: Laila Soininen

That’s just one instance. There were many more. But one experience that we will cherish for a long long time came from the home boys; Bimal Rai and John Ma.On the evening of the second day of the convention, Bimal and John started on a Nepali traditional full back tattoo.

John Ma (left) and Bimal Rai (right) tattooing in collaboration.
John Ma (left) and Bimal Rai (right) tattooing in collaboration.

For those who haven’t seen them work, let us warn you that these two are machines in themselves. They buzz faster than their tattoo machines, and you need balls the size of Gibraltar to get tattooed by both of them together. But watching them tattoo together will rekindle your romance towards this art form. While one was tattooing the lower back, the other was taking care of the upper part. They clearly didn’t empathize with the client’s pain threshold, but as a viewer, that would be your last concern too. Watching them tattoo together is a lesson in the language of flow. One complements and supports the other. If John manipulated the flower at the bottom, Bimal would notice that and make necessary changes upstairs as well.

Now, whoever said ‘two is company, three is crowd’ can go get tattooed by these three gentlemen.

Halfway into the tattoo, Baba Trampy (left) joins John and Bimal.
Halfway into the tattoo, Baba Trampy (left) joins John and Bimal.

How can three artists of three different backgrounds possibly work on the same tattoo together? How? I don’t have the answer, but watching them tattoo together was a sight to behold. Oh, by the way, Bimal and John started off the piece at Trampy’s booth.

The next day, Bimal teamed up with Raph Cemo to start and complete another full back tattoo, which also went on to win the ‘Best of the Day’ on day three of the convention. These three instances remained the highlight of Nepal Tattoo Convention 2016 for us. Three instances which proved that #ThePowerOfWe places art at the highest pedestal, and not the artists.

From the time Nepal crumbled under the earthquake till date, their art and their togetherness for art has overcome all obstacles. As Bijay pointed out during a late night/ early morning interview with us, he would have gone ahead and organised this year’s programme even if only 10 artists had turned out. Their invitation to the rest of the world was very simple, “Let’s Celebrate Art Together”. And that was the essence of Nepal Tattoo Convention 2016.

From hotel rooms to booths, to awards, to tattoos, to the experience, Nepal was all about coming together to celebrate art. And it was all possible for #ThePowerOfWe.

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