Leah Anifowose and Jet Catacutan are two younger tattoo artists in Calgary who by no means imagined they’d at some point make a dwelling doing one thing their households initially strongly disapproved of.
However whereas bumpy in locations, their careers have helped them higher perceive and outline their very own complicated identities.
Now, their artwork helps others of their group discover methods to specific themselves on their very own phrases — difficult conventional expectations not simply inside Filipino circles, but additionally, stylistically, throughout the business itself.
Navigating household expectations
Earlier than both Anifowose or Catacutan established themselves within the business, that they had their dad and mom to take care of.
Like many younger Filipino Canadians, they had been caught between the typically conflicting needs to fulfill their household’s expectations and chase their very own goals.
Each Anifowose and Catacutan say they butted up towards prevalent cultural misconceptions about what sort of folks get tattoos, and what tattoos say about an individual.
“They had been like, ‘Are you in gangs?'” recalled Catacutan, when he informed his dad and mom 18 months in the past that he was beginning a tattoo apprenticeship.
“That is the stigma that they had, however primarily as a result of they did not have the information concerning the tattooing scene.”
Anifowose jokes that simply getting a tattoo can be motive sufficient for her mom to disown her. So she did not point out it till she had already landed an apprenticeship and stop her job.
“However I am actually fortunate that I am within the place the place my mother’s simply sort of accepted, ‘OK, that is what she desires to do. I’ll be supportive about it.’ As a result of she desires to be in my life. She does not need to have rifts there that do not should be,” Anifowose mentioned.
Catacutan says tattooing is simply one other of his inventive retailers, and his dad and mom are beginning to see that.
“The extra I get to indicate that to them, the extra they admire it, and so they really help my artwork.”
It is one factor to win over household; it is one other to interrupt into the business.
The distinction illustration could make
Catacutan says he was fortunate to attach with a mentor, virtually accidentally, who noticed the potential in his artwork. Somebody who simply occurred to be Filipino.
However Anifowose struggled to seek out an apprenticeship.
“I really feel like issues would have been simpler for me, a feminine particular person of color, to have somebody who seemed like me and will sort of perceive the place I used to be coming from,” she mentioned.
Some within the business questioned her type. They informed her nobody would need the sorts of anime, Pokemon and Sailor Moon-inspired tattoos that she was creating.
Nonetheless, she caught with it.
And when she lastly obtained her probability, she began to construct a consumer base — affirming not simply her expertise, but additionally her cultural identification.
Lots of Anifowose’s shoppers are Filipino, despite the fact that she does not promote herself as such.
She says this sudden affinity has helped her really feel at dwelling in among the extra difficult components of her identification.
“The tattoos I design, they’re the sort of tattoos that I might get. And it is fascinating that that is what’s attracting different Filipinos.”
She’s grateful for this recognition from her group, as a result of it is helped her acknowledge the authenticity of her personal expertise, she says.
“For lots of my earlier life, I sort of rejected being Filipino. I actually needed to slot in with all my white associates, and I did not need folks to see me as ‘different.’ As a result of that was arduous to outlive as a child,” Anifowose mentioned.
“However now that I am older, I am regretting not leaning into that extra. I am like, ‘Why did not I study Tagalog?’
“I virtually felt like I wasn’t Filipino sufficient for sure areas. And it is sort of cool that stuff that I am drawing for myself remains to be attracting Filipino consideration. It is sort of reaffirming. It is like, ‘Oh, OK, I’m Filipino sufficient,'” Anifowose mentioned.
One factor she sees mirrored in her shoppers is the expertise of attempting to reconcile who they’re with who their households need them to be.
“Lots of people that I’ve tattooed have really been like, ‘Will my dad and mom see this? Can I get it right here so they will not see it?’ So very a lot people who find themselves like, ‘I need to categorical myself creatively, however I additionally need to maintain the steadiness in my household,'” she mentioned.
“I believe that is one thing that hasn’t been tremendous straightforward for Filipino Canadians.”
“We’ve got a bizarre house that we’re looking for ourselves in. Lots of people are simply attempting to determine who they’re as a Filipino, but additionally as a Canadian, and who they’re as an individual, individually. And tattoos are a good way of expressing that,” Anifowose mentioned.
Tattoos as self-expression
Each Anifowose and Catacutan say the business is attracting individuals who could by no means have thought of getting tattooed 10 years in the past as a result of perceptions are altering.
“The tradition has shifted from that stigma that tattooing is for dangerous crowds and whatnot, and now it is actually purely out of artwork and expression,” Catacutan mentioned.
“You do not have to be a sure kind of particular person to get a tattoo, like tremendous edgy or badass or something,” Anifowose mentioned.
“I believe lots of people are discovering niches within the tattoo tradition that weren’t there earlier than. And so they’re like, ‘I match into this, and I need to put this on my physique, as a result of it is one thing that is necessary to me.'”
As a tattoo artist, Catacutan says he is proud to have the ability to join what he is doing now to what his ancestors did centuries in the past.
Conventional tribal tattoos, or batok, had been utilized in pre-colonial occasions to indicate bravery, magnificence or standing within the Philippines.
“It is sort of cool to see if there is a rise once more with Filipino tattoo artists, given the truth that we’ve got that wealthy historical past with tattooing, making an precise influence out right here and in Calgary,” Catacutan mentioned.
“I believe that is one thing I would like — to succeed in out to extra of those Filipino artists and provides them a voice, or illustration. Having that tight group … it is one among my goals.”
Anifowose says she likes the sound of that, too.
“If it does flip into that sort of factor the place it is like … let’s set up a Filipino presence within the tattoo group, that may be actually cool,” she mentioned.