Trend, Tradition, Tattoos: Armenians challenge stereotypes with body art

Trend,  Tradition, Tattoos: Armenians challenge stereotypes with body art

Mkrtchyan says the tattoo fad has caught on in Armenia

Summer comes, clothes go and the sun colors Armenian bodies.

Lately, there’s an increasingly popular option for the latter, as the world tattoo trend a decade old has reached Armenia.

Employees at tattoo salons assure that with each summer the number of customers at Yerevan’s tattoo parlors increases.

One of them, Gagik Mkrtchyan, master of tattoo making, says that during recent months he manages to sleep only two-three hours a day.

“I even do not manage to serve all the clients registered for one day,” says Mkrtchyan, who is the owner of ‘Tattoo Art Club’ salon, one of the oldest tattoo salons.

His salon was founded 10 years ago, and it was one of the first of its kind in Yerevan. Mkrtchyan bought it five years ago. His clients include the average fashion conscious and members of Armenia’s showbiz community. Showman Felix Khachatryan, hip-hop singer ‘Hay Tgha’ (Armenian boy,) Hayko, members of ‘32’ Humor Club are clients as well as American-Armenian hip-hop singer Apeh Jan, who had his latest tattoo here.

Mkrtchyan says that five years ago when he just started working, he barely had five-six clients per month, and moreover he had to convince them to get tattooed.

And now the situation is quite different and Mkrtchyan and his colleagues see about 10 customers a day.

“The stereotype, which came from the Soviet period that only people who were in jails wear tattoos is changed,” says Mkrtchyan. He mentions that the number of girls who do tattoos also increased.

“Recently I made a tattoo, which looked like a piece of pizza on a girl’s body, and another girl preferred the piglet from ‘Winnie the Pooh’ cartoon,” Mkrtchyan says.

The least expensive tattoo at the salon is 10,000 drams (about $27), while, the tattoo of a middle size (which has about 15 centimeters length) starts at 30,000 (about $81). (Almost the same prices can be met at other tattoo salons of the capital city.)

Shattered stereotypes aside, old attitudes still prevail.

Karen Sahakyan, 24, who got his sixth tattoo this summer, says that after having each tattoo, he has an unpleasant conversation with his parents.

“My mom says that how can a boy like me who is well-educated and smart, wear tattoos and simply look like a bandit,” Sahakyan says.

According to tattoo specialist Mkrtchyan, very often boys choose religious symbols; renderings of Christ are widely popular.

“Very often most of them leave the salon with a quite different tattoo. Now people perceive tattoo as something beautifying the human body, or an expression of freedom. In a nutshell now they treat it more easily,” Mkrtchyan says.

Syrian-Armenian Siro Kejejian, director of ‘Body Art’ salon, which runs in Armenia for four years, says that Armenian men did not change their preferences that much.

“They (men) mainly ask for a cross, a tiger or wolf head, and ladies prefer small flowers, some ornaments which will be seen only in case if they wear swimming suits,” says Kejejian, whose salon is also full of customers, mostly foreigners and Diaspora.