Born to a Ugandan father and Kenyan mother, 24-year-old Muhammad Ali has mastered the art of tattooing.
Ali is the Founder and CEO of Kampala Ink and Art Gallery located on Kent Lane in Kamwokya a Kampala Suburb. His major aim is to increase his capital through tattooing in both Uganda and Kenya.
“Following your passion, being prepared to work hard and to sacrifice, and, above all, not letting anyone limit my dreams is what drives me,” says Ali.
“Tattooing business is more of an investment where one must have passion towards it,” he recollects.
A tattoo is a form of body modification where a design is made by inserting ink, dyes and pigments, either indelible or temporary, into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment.
The art of making tattoos is tattooing. Tattoos fall into three broad categories: purely decorative; symbolic; pictorial.
Tattoo artists are skilled in their craft, spending years honing their skills and working under a master artist.
Starting a tattoo business takes time and effort, as well as significant capital. As of June 2010, costs for equipment, leases, insurance and advertising exceed $30,000.
“I grew up in an African perspective; normally the way religion and society perceive the theory behind tattooing and piercing is different from what a true African will think, this business basically is there to create the true image of Africans and also keep the history of Africans not thinking that all those who do tattoos are drug addicts or gang stars,” adds Ali.
The earliest known evidence of tattooing goes back to markings found on the mummified human body that was discovered in the Alp Mountains in 1991.
5300 years old Oetzi Ancient Egypt where wall paintings as old as 2000 BC have been suggesting the use of tattoos is today generally accepted as the cradle of tattoo art.
Tattoos have been found on a small number of female mummies. The word – tattoo originates from the Tahitian word ta-tau, meaning – to make a mark.
Ta-tau means to mark or puncture the skin and is a reduplicated form of the word – ta – meaning – to strike.
Tattauing or tattooing was a word introduced to Europe by Captain James Cook after his 1769 expedition to the South Pacific.
The history of tattoo began thousands of years ago and is as diverse as the people who had them. Today, tattooing is becoming more popular in world business.
Ali notes that people should stop having misconceptions about tattooing and think of how creative they can be in making business and making more income.
Kampala Ink and Art Gallery has been in existence for over six years. Ali relocated the business from Kisementi, an upmarket setting near Kololo to a middle-income area of Kamwokya.
Having joined this tattooing trade at the age of 19, after being inspired by his elder brother, Ali is driven by passion and the urge to give his clients the best quality service.
“In this business, you need to try and be yourself in order to achieve, the influence might drive away your passion but always keep the passion at the forefront of your dreams and aim at what you want to be,” stresses Ali.
He says many challenges are faced in the tattooing business. “People normally tend to use your name once you create that extraordinary brand name. Some don’t even appreciate the time you spend in developing this business and making it look different than others.”
He adds that there is a lot of competition among people in the tattooing business as many aims to stand out and be counted as the best.
“I say with Art and Craft good things last longer when you produce the best; many people will appreciate and will keep on coming,” Ali says.
He notes that most of the challenges can be solved by giving the best work to our customers.
“Kampala Ink aims at standard and giving a better, affordable and quality service if you give your clients the best quality of work in terms of the quality of equipment used “where most people don’t actually use the best equipment” this will help you to set a particular standard,” he says.
Youth unemployment remains a serious policy challenge in many sub-Saharan African countries, including Uganda.
In 2013, youth (aged 15 to 24) in sub-Saharan Africa were twice likely to be unemployed compared to any other age cohort.
For Uganda, in 2012, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics revealed that the share of unemployed youth (national definition, 18-30 years) among the total unemployed persons in the country was 64 per cent.
Given the rapid growth of the Ugandan population—three-quarters of the population is below the age of 30 years—coupled with the fact that the youth are getting better educated through higher access to primary and secondary education, a stronger focus on job creation for this cohort of people cannot be overemphasized. Therefore I am glad I own my business which earns me a leaving.
“In the same business, I am able to pay my bills which include rent bills, operational cost and other utilities. And I have created a strong relationship with many Artists from Europe and across entire Africa,” recounts Ali.
Ali says that way back when they were starting, their cost was $30 but now they increased to $40 for a minimum price due to the quality they give and the standards they have set.
They have worked on Singers and Icons like Dr Jose chameleon, Sheebah Karungi, Moses Golola, Bebe Cool, Rabadaba and the biggest of all the Sauti Sol.
“The most amazing thing about Kampala Ink tattoo is, we mind of your health, normally when you come to our tattoo shop you are tasked to first sign a disclaimer and thereafter we ask whether you think that the service will affect you. Not forgetting that our products are organic and cause no harm to anybody. We mind of your health because you are our customers,” he adds.
He says that all their equipment and machines are sterilized to avoid any infection.
“For quality assurance, we normally make sure that our customers get an instruction manual script to guide them while acquiring our services, as I said you are the source and centre of excellence of our growth and development as tattooing industries in Africa.”
BY GEORGE PIWANG