NEPAL: THE LAND OF INK AND BUDDHA
Everyone was more than happy to have their portraits shot and I had my first sample shots to show other potential “tattoo models” here in Pokhara. Before leaving, Hari gave me the address of Master Mohan, a tattoo artist extraordinaire who had the oldest shop in Kathmandu.
The next day I hailed a cab, handed the driver Mohan’s address and not ten minutes later found myself outside Mohan’s tattoo parlor. Mohan was ready to meet with me and could not be more friendly. Mohan prides himself as much a teacher of the art of tattooing as a tattoo artist itself. “A lot of people get tattoos, and a lot of people make tattoos. But not many know how to do it—properly, safely, or hygienical” declares Mohan. He goes on to say that he wants them to continue the craft they love, but to do it with at least the basic knowledge of their tools, hygiene and safety. Mohan started the first tattoo convention in the region, the NEPAL TATTOO CONVENTION, and has proven to be a pioneer who cares not just about his own studio but about educating the next generation of tattoo artists.
The photos were easy. Mohan first; then Mohan working on John, the traveler from California who was living in the region for a while. The people couldn’t have been nicer.
Mohan called a few friends to join us and show off their pieces, and he allowed members of his team to pose as well.
Everybody wound up getting into the pictures—his son, his dad and his lovely wife.
Now that I had Mohan’s sample images on my iPhone, there was no stopping me. My next stop was Jads tattoo shop, owned by John and Aath. Again more Nepalese tea and conversation. They knew Mohan, of course and had attended the convention. In Tact, they both had won prizes Tor their best pieces at the last show.
Their studio was an amazing homage to rock ‘n roll. Guitars, music inspired artwork and giant speakers hung from the walls. Only to be accented by the roar of heavy metal music.
My last stop in Kathmandu was Grasshopper, to visit with artist Nakul and his girlfriend Zen. Zen does dreads and hair pieces in addition to Nakul’s ink work. She likes to invite tourists into their shop, too; and she answers their questions about local habits, places to go, prices, and tipping—all things a tourist needs to know. Nakul has worked in Kathmandu a shorter time than Mohan. He came from the Lumbini area and from the city where Buddha was supposedly born. He moved to Kathmandu because he had more opportunity to get clients and have his business grow. Nakul loves his work, believing it is a dream job that is coming true for him because he has been able to have his own studio and he can do what he wants.
All of the people I met were amazing. Their tattoo images are from a different continent, and they truly reflected a different culture. If you ever want a mystical-motivated tattoo, you’ll be in the birthplace of all of that in Kathmandu and you will have a tough time choosing your artist. And if you get to Pokhara, go to Hari’s where you will get a great tattoo—and lovely cup of Nepalese tea, too.