Three days of international and local art, music, vendors, drinks and hundreds in attendance contributed to a culture of extreme energy and variety during the Cape Town International Tattoo Convention brought to you by Southern Ink Xposure.

This year was really spectacular — better than last year and all years past. The location was perfect. Having the historic building in the middle of town made the event accessible and striking. Amazingly beautiful people, amazing art and amazing music. (Jon James Case from The Body Architects).

Held in the momentous Cape Town City Hall, the contrast between pillars, regal statues and 19th century glamour against a tattoo nation of hipsters, old school bikers, rock bands, Levi jean exhibits and beer was testament to the evolution of humanity and the arts.

Over the last five to seven years there has been this big influx of the type of people getting tattooed. Because of exposure and change in perceptions the acceptability of tattoo has changed from hiding them to showing them off. (Tony Weintraud from Tattoo Tony Creations)

Tattooing dates back to more than 50,000 years ago, but the talent at this expo could not have been more au courant. Cutting edge technology and skill was showcased during the week with every artist having exclusive style and expertise.

Fine art should really step down. Tattooing is so real and down to earth and at the same time so much harder because the decisions made involve two people and such permanence. Tattoo art is all about quality. You can’t fake a good tattoo.  (Tony Weintraud from Tattoo Tony Creations)

When asked how Case got involved in tattooing he said that it was the other way around — ‘…tattooing got involved in me’. Artists like Case tattoo because, ‘…there is no room for error. Your marking a body for life, in tattooing such a high level of excellence is striven for as an artist.’

Ranging from religion to rebellion, tattoos have never had universal connotation. French sailors came home with them as proof of exotic travels, ancient Mayans donned them as a sign of courage, showed loyalty in gangs and were a brand of criminality. Today however, getting a tattoo is less about being labelled and more about a decree of internal expression.

The change in tattoo perception was documented in the film Tattoo Nation, shown during the Homeward Bound exhibit which kicked off the weekend. Following the lives of mainstream tattoo pioneers Charlie Cartwright, Jack Rudy and Freddy Negrete, the narrative spoke of their passion and boundary shattering dedication at excelling in the art of tattooing and influencing tattoo culture with each of their unique backgrounds.

@Michael Ellis

@Michael Ellis

If you weren’t getting inked or holding the hand of someone who was, the talent and variety of bands exceeded expectations. Among those bands were local favourites Beach Party Wolftown, Long Time Citizen, The Ratrod Cats and Them Tornados. We spoke to The Ratrod Cats earlier this year, click here for the interview.
All music played complimented the energy driven event and made for a rocking good time.

So great to get back on stage after being cooped up in studio and production for so long. What a night at the Southern Ink Exposure. Thanks to everyone for staying out on a Sunday

Tattoo expo virgin Lauren Ker was impressed by the variety and talent she saw. ‘There was a guy that had only Spiderman villain character tattoos. He was getting this incredibly awesome Doctor Octopus tattoo on his side stomach/hip. It was incredibly cool,’ said Ker.

Those who came to the expo were as diverse as the tattoos showcased. No matter your preference in art and music, it was clear the event was a success. The best part of the week for artist Jon James Case was when he looked up from tattooing a client and saw his dad watching him work. ‘That was pure magic,’ said Case.

Images via,,,,, ,@Michael Ellis