It's a basic part of the human condition that we love art, and we love to appreciate it even more. After all, this is the whole motivation behind museums and art galleries – places where people can come and enjoy being in the presence of great works of art.
For some tattoo enthusiasts, tattooing is simply an extension of this same mentality – providing a place to proudly and publicly display cherished art work so that it can be appreciated by others. Of course, when that art work comes from a foreign culture, it can create problems where cultural insensitivity is concerned. Hanging a painting on your wall is one thing, but choosing to ink a foreign deity onto your skin is a level of ownership that leaps into cultural appropriation territory. While certainly not ill-intentioned, some have found themselves under scrutiny for insensitive displays of multiethnic ink.
Before you rush to get that next Buddha tattoo, take some time to think about how it could be interpreted by others.
As with most modern fashion trends, the practice of getting culturally-inspired tattoos has been popularized by the celebrity echelon. If there are two things our stars love it's flagrant displays of personal fashion and appearing worldly and cultured, and unfortunately, multicultural tattoos sit right at the crossroads of those particular paths. While almost everyone who's spent some time in the spotlight is guilty of this offense at one time or another, there are those who have exhibited much more high-profile instances of this type of appropriation than others.
For example, celebrity gossip site The Gloss reported on pop songstress Selena Gomez's new tattoo, a dainty scrawl across her back which reads "love yourself first," in Arabic. Such a choice could arguably raise as many questions as it does eyebrows.
Another example can be found on the left forearm of soccer superstar David Beckham. The English athlete opted to emblazon his arm with the name of his wife Victoria in the Sanskrit language. Unfortunately for Mr. and Mrs. Beckham, the tattoo process was victim of a translation error of the type common to such endeavors, and the finished product reads as an unfortunate misspelling of his mate's moniker, according to Life & Style Mag.
More serious implications
Of course, as with anything that celebrities do, the rest of us are bound to follow, and this tattooing trend is no exception. Tattoo blogs across the Internet are awash with photos of those who have gone under the needle for everything from Asian or Middle Eastern script to depictions of Hindu gods and iconography.
Unfortunately, despite the best intentions, such actions can have unforeseen consequences, especially when cultural lines are crossed. What may seem as a mark of appreciation or ethnic fascination for one may be interpreted in a disrespectful or offensive light by another, which can create some awkward situations when they may be least expected.
In one example highlighting the lack of perspective multicultural tattoos embody, a tourist actually found himself in legal trouble because of a tattoo that was deemed to be in poor taste. The Bangkok Post reported that a Canadian tourist was recently deported from Myanmar to Thailand because of a tattoo of Buddha inscribed on his leg. It seems rash, but this wasn't even the first such instance recorded – a British woman was arrested in Sri Lanka and deported in April because her shoulder sported a similar image.
While tattoos may seem like harmless appreciation to us, the huge potential for inadvertent offense makes such ideas a breeding ground for tattoo regret.
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