KUALA LUMPUR, June 14 — There was a time when the idea of having a full sleeved tattoo and walking into a corporate office was unheard of.

In the past, getting inked brought about many negative stereotypes as those sporting tattoos were often considered social deviants and outcasts.

But those times are now changing.

From college classrooms to high profile corporate offices, tattoos have been making steady progress for almost a decade now as more people are slowly embracing the culture.


Last weekend, Peninsular Malaysia hosted its first tattoo convention at MAEPS Serdang coinciding with the Art of Speed auto show.Visitors to the Wayang Kulit Tattoo Show 2015 could have tattoos done on the spot.
Visitors to the Wayang Kulit Tattoo Show 2015 could have tattoos done on the spot.

Despite being a relatively small outfit, with only around 24 artists from Malaysia and Singapore, the turnout however was surprising.

It was evident that a growing number of Malaysians seem to be more welcoming towards the idea of having tattoos, judging by the number of them querying the tattoo artists at the convention.


Some attendees even got tattoos done on the spot.

Speaking to the organisers of The Wayang Kulit Tattoo Show 2015, tattoo artists Julian Oh and Taco Joe for the past decade Malaysians have become more open to having ink on their bodies.

“It is quite of an extreme thing, knowing that this is a Muslim country but then, it is a very surprising the turn out. We are glad,” Joe told Malay Mail Online in an interview.

Subang Jaya-based Oh explained that television shows like Miami Ink, a show about a tattoo shop have helped change the perception of people here on tattoos.

“I think that whole stigma has been gone ten years ago especially due to shows like Miami Ink came on air and everybody has seen what tattoos are. We are not worried about that anymore,” he told Malay Mail online.

Another tattoo artist, Fin T from Pink Tattoos located in Bangsar said people have to stop “perpetuating that all tattoo studios are dungeons and all tattoo artists are dropouts, bikers and skinheads”, which was far from the actual fact as most of them are distinguished artists in their own right.

She also agreed that the industry was changing with tattoo artists being more approachable and friendly to draw in more people.

“Slowly, it is not going to happen overnight. It is changing and it’s because of the people and the way they are seeing things now.

“In Pink Tattoo, we like to make people comfortable, we are very 1950-ish themed. We greet our customers with a smile and help guide them in getting the tattoo of their choice,” Fin T added.

Singaporean based artist, Jared Asalli added he was quite impressed with the audience turnout at the convention and hoped for it to keep expanding to create a bigger tattoo scene in the Southeast Asian region.

When asked about the government support for the tattoo scene, Oh said so far there wasn’t any yet as it was still relatively a small scene especially since tattoos are considered taboo for Muslims here.

“I think we are still a small industry but it is growing. Then again, we only have a 30 per cent of the market share in terms of population to work with because we cannot be tattooing Muslims.

“We still have a long way to go. Our target audience is just the 30 per cent of non-Muslims compared to our neighbouring countries, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand where everybody gets tattooed.

“In that sense, we have not gone to the stage where we say we want government support yet. I don’t know how this will go in the future, but we hope for the best,” Oh said.

Oh, who owns a private tattoo studio called ‘Cakar Ayam’ said he wants the industry to improve and produce better works to have more recognition and respect for the scene.

“I think now next stage is maturity of the industry to get better and better. To produce more quality works and we see that happening because there are more tattooists coming up and people are actually keener.

“What I have noticed in the past few years, more and more tattooists are travelling abroad to get their work showcased and guest spots around the world. Before only a handful were doing but now more and more are going out. That is a sign of progress,” he explained.