More than skin deep

It’s cold out there, folks. As I write this, there is an extreme cold warning across all of southern Manitoba, including Winnipeg. With a few small respites, the next week is expected to remain one of bitterly cold wind chills. When the temperature reaches -45ºC with the wind chill, skin can start to freeze in five to 10 minutes.

On the cover of The Uniter this week, features editor Katherine Cao takes a look at tattoo culture in Winnipeg. It’s ironic that, in a city where we need to cover up our skin for half the year for fear of freezing, so many still feel compelled to decorate that skin with permanent ink.

Of course, tattoos have a purpose beyond being able to show them off. Many millennials have embraced tattoos as a form of self-expression; it’s more important that the tattooed person knows it’s there. But Katherine explores the varied roles tattoos and tattooing play in culture, both broadly and locally.

For plenty of folks, tattooing is work. In Winnipeg’s many parlours, artists learn their craft, managing both the visual beauty and medical safety of tattoos. For others, tattooing is tradition. For people coming from cultures where traditional tattooing has a long and storied history, it can be a way for people to connect with their ancestors or their spirituality.

We’re not quite out of the era in which some potential employers, passersby or relatives still look down their nose at people with tattoos. But the sheer diversity of meaning, methods and uses of tattooing just goes to show that, in a cold city where people need to cover up, ink is more than skin deep.

—Thomas Pashko

Published in Volume 74, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 13, 2020)

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