Getting My First Tattoo at Sacred Art

Thabo Junior Masilela

Getting a tattoo has always been something I’ve wanted to do. I finally decided to have one put on after my mother got a tattoo here in Tucson at Sacred Art Tattoo Studio. She told me that when she got there she was greeted with kindness and care. She also expressed how she really enjoyed how welcoming the staff at the parlor was, that they understood how getting a tattoo is a big decision that should be thought about. She got this impression when her tattoo artist asked her the meaning of her tattoo and why she wanted to get it. Overall my mother was very impressed with how her tattoo artist interacted with her, and because of that, I decided to also get mine done at Sacred Art as well.

Scared Art provides bookings, but only if you have a specific artist in mind. I didn’t have an artist in mind, so I took advantage of their walk-in system that operates on a first-come / first-serve basis. I really liked this place! The interior had several stations that were sectioned out neatly with good lighting. After speaking to the receptionist I was referred to an artist who sat me down and assured me that she was able to make my vision come true, which she did. She took the time to print out the stencil multiple times laying it in many different sizes and angles to ensure that I was happy with what would be the final product. 

No pain, just a light poking

I was seated on a comfortable chair adjusted with an armrest so that she could have a clear angle to tattoo my arm. After cleaning my arm with a disinfectant, she picked up her gun that made a loud zzzz sound, dipped it into the black ink, guided the gun over the stencil, and began to tattoo my arm.

The pain was nowhere near what I’d heard from what other people have said. I would describe the feeling as a light poking sensation that began to be more painful the closer she got to my elbow.

While she was tattooing me, I chatted with a guy in the adjacesnt station who was getting a neck tattoo. I joked about potentially getting a neck tat myself one day. This led to a conversation about how not all people have a set meaning in mind when they get a tattoo. Sometimes, he said, getting a tattoo in the heat of the moment can be even more rewarding, like capturing an instant dream and keeping it with you for the rest of your life. This was a totally new perspective that I’ll always remember from my first tattoo session.

Anyway, since my tattoo was pretty simple — just three phrases — it just took about 20 minutes to get on.  After it was done there was very little pain and quite a bit of swelling around each letter. My artist placed a dark bag over it and told me about the tattoo aftercare, which consisted of using lotion to keep it moisturized, a piece of paper with simple instructions on how to clean the tattoo, and shading it from direct sunlight.

The concept of my tattoo

The tattoo I asked her to put on me that day consists of three phrases: me vs me, I am > I was, and don’t forget. Each phrase has personal significance to me. 

The phrase me vs me is inspired by rapper NLE Choppa’s album. This phrase is from one of his album names. I choose this tattoo because it constantly reminds me that I should not be competing with anyone else but myself.  The second phrase,  I am >  I was, is inspired by the 21 Savage album. This phrase captures my believe that I am not stagnant. I am constantly improving mentally and physically and always getting closer to my goals in life. The tattoo is a constant reminder that my current self should be better when compared to who I was in the past and who I will be in the future.

The last phrase is don’t forget inspired by a song by Rod Wave, who is my favorite artist. This song is a constant reminder that I don’t have to justify my choices in life to others. When he raps “If you can’t feel my pain it ain’t for you anyway,” I’m reminded that people won’t understand me anyway because they don’t know the intricate details of my past experiences. The song also emphasizes that no matter what you do, both good and bad people will have something to say about it. So don’t feel like you need to listen to the whole world. To me that means: just listen to your own heart.

Thabo Junior Masilela a international student from South Africa.