We Bleed Blue... Ink

Ever sauntered past Lionel in the dining hall and wondered to yourself, “Whoa, who’s this ang kong siao kia?

Or caught yourself curiously gazing at Danny’s left forearm while he grips the neck of his guitar onstage performing a guitar solo during a Rockers performance?

Or zoomed in on photos on ex-president Zann’s midriff at the symbol in ink? (Don’t do that)

Well, we decided to twist it up a little from yawn-inducing “10-new-ways-to-wipe-your-butt-in-KR” and get up close & personal with 6 inked Kent Ridgeans with eye-catching tattoos to get some real juicy stories – all of which have diverse meanings, stories and outlooks behind the ink on their skin.

Of course, this doesn’t go without a foreword: These individuals have disclosed, assured and proven beforehand that they have absolutely no affiliation with gangs, drugs, hardcore religious idols, hardened underground criminal networks, the Illuminati or anime.

1. Anurag, C Block – Upper back

Yo Anurag. What’s the art on your back and what does it mean for you?

A: The tattoo on my back is a lyrical reference to Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”! “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery / None but ourselves can free our minds”.

I have a soft spot for Bob Marley songs. Not sure where it came from, but I think my granddad was a major influence in this. The song is my own way of remembering my grandad (shout-out to him for sick music taste).

The lyrics itself are something I’ve learnt to embrace over the years. It is basically a reminder to myself that I am my own biggest enemy. I was a lousy student in JC (still am), retaining and scoring 30 something RP for prelims HAHAHA - a lot of teachers gave up on me, but my friends never did.

I struggled in NS for months as well because I was a weak swimmer but through it all, I learnt the hard way that no one else can help you break your limits. You need to do it yourself. If I break my own mental barriers, the world is my oyster. So ya, LOL don’t worry so much, don’t be afraid. Just do.

It holds such strong meaning for you; do you think it expresses yourself or your goals? (As an emancipator perhaps – since you are always helping people)

A: Emancipator? Err no I don’t know HAHAHAHA HELP why you trying to make me sound like a saint or something because I’m definitely not. As in people have gone out of their way to help me before so just be nice to everyone la, nothing to lose.

As for expressing myself/goals I think... it just makes me kinda do crazy things like stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m working on getting my dive master cert, and I wanna get a skydiving licence too (in Australia maybe after grad see if I have money).

I wanna do BASE jumping but I’m scared I’ll die so I don’t know about this one yet. I think I have too many crazy ideas when I should be focusing on things like pulling up my CAP.

Speaking of doing crazy things... Do you think you'll be getting any other crazy tattoos soon? Once you start you can't stop yes?

A: Actually, yes HAHA when I sat my parents down and told them I was getting a tattoo, I told them I’d get 2. So there’s still one more in the works but it’s gonna be on my back again! Right shoulder blade!!!

I was warned well in advance that tattoos are quite addictive and that you’d keep checking the tattoo out in the mirror, so I made it a point to get mine on my back. Because it’s on my back, I rarely look at it, so I don’t get the urge to get random tattoos.

Good advice! Now we know your next one; we’ll be keeping an eye out for A Nu tattoo on Anu ;) One more question - if you were a tattoo artist and you could give anyone in KR a tattoo, who would it be and why?

A:. Maybe a glass door on David Chew’s left hand to remind him of his accident during summer last year.

2. Zann Lim, E Block – Abdomen and shoulder blade

Hello Zann! So, did you get your first tattoo in KR? What inspired your decision to ink yourself?

Z: Hallo, yes, I did! In Y3S1. But I thought of it way before that, like start of uni? What inspired my decision to get down to doing it is really because I was earning more money back then & thought it was nice HAHA.

But ok aesthetics aside, the reason is linked to the meaning of my 1st tattoo, which is a long personal story BUT in a nutshell, it was a new phase in life for me and I wanted to remind myself of the biggest challenge that I had overcome which had also shaped me into whatever I am today LOL sounds lame but yes...

Not lame at all! Ink with stories are the ones worth talking about! What is your tattoo and where is it? What would you say it symbolises?

Z: I have a pistol on my tummy, at the side of my belly button and another one on my back. That one is a Chinese phrase - 淡然處之 in 草書 (cursive script calligraphy). The gun mainly symbolizes keeping guard. You can couple that with defence & protection as well! All of which summarises the long story behind it. The Chinese words mean what they are: Remain indifferent, stay calm and composed in situations that could have potentially triggered me.

Whoa, I myself have considered getting a gun, but I don't know where to point the muzzle ha ha X’D Do you believe that tattoos can speak lengths about a person's character? For example, yours seem to serve as a reminder to yourself - perhaps aligned with a certain outlook you have now?

Z: HAHA omg same... initially took a while to decide where & I know mine looks wrong in every possible way. Ok that’s tough... I know some do it purely for aesthetic reasons. Even if they do have a legitimate meaning to it, there are just so many different interpretations & you can only understand the person’s character upon knowing the full story.

But as a whole, yes! it isn’t an overnight decision (at least for me) in terms of thought & detail so I believe there’s always quite a bit to be uncovered in a tattoo.

LOL. Don’t worry, no matter where you point the muzzle, it’ll raise questions for sure! So, for yourself, do you have any plans for #3 coming up? Will we get to see it before you command?

Z: I DO but sorry, you won’t get to see it before command ☹ maybe end of the year! May or may not happen as well, depends on whether I hit a personal goal in my job HAHA it’s a motivating factor for me!

Never met a cooler former JCRC president! Hope it spurs you on to achieve great things! One more question - if you were a tattoo artist and could give ANYONE in KR a tattoo regardless of what it is, who would it be? What would it be? Why that person?

Z:. I had other thoughts too though like tattoo a mix of different snake breeds on gab’s (Gabriel Tan, D Block) face so that nobody has to see it anymore.

Ok but if not for the lols... I would tattoo a lighthouse on Pin (Chui Pin, E Block)! Because lighthouses are there to give ships security when they’re navigating through rough waters, so they symbolise a form of safety, trust & guidance?

Sort of Pin towards me (or really, anyone) since Y1. If you’re having a bad day or your life is not in place and go to Pin, you will understand…

3. Lionel Lew, E Block - … Everywhere

Hello Lionel, I think a few of us have seen your body art - mind telling us how many tattoo pieces you have, and which is your biggest piece?

L: Hey Russell! I’ve gotten probably 10 pieces I think. The biggest single piece I have right now is the lion on my left chest, although I did some filler work to link all the pieces of my chest together.

I've always known chest pieces to be one of the most painful and yet most rewarding when you look at it in the mirror. And 10 is A LOT, wow. Why a lion? Courage? What does it mean to you on a personal level?

L: Yeah it was REALLY painful, although it’s gonna be 12 by august HAHA.

Yeah, the lion represents courage and sort of like becoming a better version of myself since my name means little lion. That was my 4th tattoo, and also the last tattoo that had meaning to me on a personal level. I think after a while, after you get all the tattoos that have a deeper meaning to you, it’s hard to find or place meaning to keep up with the pace of getting the tattoos since it’s honestly addictive.

Indeed! Ok that makes sense now that you say it; it would be rather confusing if you got a tiger. On a separate note, do your peers recognise you as "ang kong siao"? People getting frightened of you on first impression in KR?

L: Yeah, I’ve had people call me that many times but usually in a joking manner so it’s all good. It’s quite sad but I’m pretty used to it. Example, when I play ice breaker games like burning bridges, I pretty much expect to get selected for those “first to go jail” kinda questions LOL.

I think there is always going to be some form of stigma that comes with tattoos in SG so just gotta take it slow and laugh it off y’know.

That’s harsh. But yeah, luckily for them you’re a nice guy. Right? Being a tattoo veteran, which one out of your 10 pieces would you say was the most rewarding, in terms of pain... artwork... (perhaps even the most compliments received!?)

L: I’d like to think so! I probably just look scary but I’m just a rly silly person to be honest. I’d say it’s the lion piece again. Before I got that piece, I’ve had 3 smaller ones done, like maybe palm sized. I went to Elvin Yong (@elvintattoo) for it and had to wait 1 year for the appointment.

It was my first “properly sized” piece and it took about 6 hours in one go. So yeah, from receiving the draft sketches, making changes, finally sitting through the pain on the day itself and eventually getting a piece that I’m very satisfied with was a journey that wasn’t exactly smooth but well worth it!

It does sound satisfying when you describe all the waiting and all the pain you endured; good on you! One last thing, think hard on this - if you were a tattoo artist and could give any of your mates in KR a tattoo, what would it be, where would it be, and why?

L: My friend Jerryl and I have been bantering about this for quite a while. We jokingly agreed that if he tattooed SpongeBob and Patrick hanging off both his nipples, I’d pay for it. If I were the artist I’d add stuff like “bikini bottom” across his chest and plankton hiding in his belly button.

4. Stefanie See, B Block - Mid-back

Hello Stef! You have a relatively large wolf on your back; half geometric, half normal 3D work - what does it stand for you?

SS: The reason why I got it in half geometric and half realistic represents the kind of person I think I am, having two different fronts, if that makes sense.

Ah, so like, kind of a representation of self? Does it hold any significance for your lived experiences?

SS: Yes. Well yeah, the reason I got this tattoo was because of a significantly difficult time I was going through. The tattoo was kind of a reminder to me that even if tough times lasts, I’d still be able to go through it.

I’m sure the significance is tremendous. Are you more inclined to tattoos as deeply expressive symbols or mainly artwork?

SS: Personally I see find that artwork and expression are mutually exclusive. every piece of artwork expresses some sort of emotion / thought through it and I guess that’s how I see tattoos as well? In the past, people used tattoos as a form of identification and belonging whereas in modern times we have tattoo pieces that may just contain a date (that holds meaning to the person), a small quote or images or sometimes just something we find interesting enough that we want tattooed on our body.

Looks like you’ve done your own thorough research. Will you be getting anymore tattoos before you command? Any big plans for bigger ink?

SS: Haha, thanks, thanks. 🙃 I’ve been planning to get a small one on my wrist / arm for a while now but I’m not sure when I wanna do it yet. As for bigger ones... HAHA maybe after I get a stable job.

Q: That’s probably the wisest thing you can do. Anyway, just for fun - if you could give anyone in KR any tattoo, who would it be, what would it be, and why?

SS: Anyone in KR? HAHA, erm… Probably Remus, I'll tattoo all the KR lingo all over his BICEPS cos his girlfriend (my best friend don’t worry I’m not a snake) hates it. I told her this and she said, "I'll never cuddle with him again". HAHA.

5. Llewyn Li, D Block - Full back

Hi Llewyn. What is the huge art piece on your back and what does it symbolise for you?

LL: It’s a Japanese hannya mask. While the hannya symbolises wisdom in traditional theatre, it just represents my love for Japanese culture since I was young. Within the tattoo itself, there are so many little intricate details that make the art piece uniquely mine.

Wow! And if I’m not wrong, it’s your first one yes? As your first tattoo, it’s huge - were your expectations met?

LL: Yup, the thing about traditional tattoos is that they’re a lot nicer when its bigger because the details and colours stand out a lot more. Yeah, I did my homework with regards to the artist as well as the design, so I was happy with the outcome

Yeah, I think some of us have seen the Hannya mask during Steppers training - the colours are fiercely vivid. Among those who've seen the ink, what is the generic first question people ask? Since I'm sure it sparks curiosity (and no doubt fear in more conservative people).

LL: Generally, the first question is always how much - $1800 for about 10h of work in total? Not the cheapest but when you’re doing something for life, you wouldn’t want the cheapest option anyway.

Well said. Cheap tattoos aren't good and good tattoos aren't cheap yes! Since you've experienced the pain of a huge tattoo, what is your advice to people who want a large piece of ink such as yours? Any tips?

LL: You can’t escape the pain really, especially on larger pieces. Shading and colouring becomes mad painful when they just keep going over the same area for a few hours. Other than that, just think through it first, I sat with the design for 6 months before getting it inked.

You must’ve given it a lot of thought - it would be crazy to do a huge tattoo on impulse. One last question Llewyn; if you could choose a tattoo for anyone in KR, humiliating or cool or whatever, who would it be? What would it be? And why?

LL: I would make Gab do a full bodysuit of snake scales to represent the biggest snake in KR that he is.

6. Daniel Lim (a.k.a. Danny), D Block, - Bicep and forearm

Hello Danny. I think everyone has seen the ink on your forearms - what is it and what’s the significance?

D: Hey Russ! Well, I have one tattoo on my left forearm, and one on my left inner bicep. The one on my forearm is my mother’s signature and it was the first tattoo I got. This one means the most to me as it’s a tribute to my late mother, and I feel like just having it there reminds me to be the best person I can be and to always do whatever I can to make her proud.

The one on my bicep is a tattoo of The Beatles’ album cover for their album ‘Abbey Road’. I don’t think I’ve told many people, but this one’s somewhat of a tribute to my dad because we both love The Beatles, and my dad and I bonded a lot over them. He would tell me stories about his dad playing their records on their turntable at home in the 60s, and we’d jam to their songs on our guitars at home on the weekends.

Those tattoos sound very near and dear to you. I always felt it was these kinds of tattoos that, when looked at, always keep you in check and root you yourself and your childhood. Beautiful. Being the gifted artiste you are, would you say that tattoos are a way of expressing your musical style or personality in general?

D: Hahaha I’m not gifted… And I think my tattoos don’t really affect the way I express my musical style that much. I really love The Beatles and someday I hope to be able to write great songs with impactful lyrics like them but having a tattoo of them doesn’t necessarily help me express that. It’s more of just because I like them so much that I wanted to get a tattoo of them.

However, I do feel that my tattoos are a way of expressing my personality. Everybody needs a form of self-expression, and tattoos and music are mine.

I guess being a musician comes in tandem with the part about self-expression and freedom. Anyway, since you tattoo is so visible, do you find yourself having to explain the significance to a lot of people? Other Beatles fans especially?

D: Yes, most of the time people ask me what my tattoos are and what they mean, and I happily tell them. I feel like if I’m proud of my tattoos and I tell people what they mean, they can see how much the tattoos mean to me and that they’re not just some kind of accessory I had permanently put on my skin. Additionally, if the people asking me want to get tattoos themselves but are undecided, maybe me telling them about my tattoos could inspire them to make a decision.

Beatles fans don’t normally ask me why I got them tattooed on my arm, but there have been a surprising amount of people asking me if my tattoo is of the evolution of man, to which I reply, “Go **** yourselves”.

Hahaha, nah I’m kidding, I just explain to them it’s The Beatles.

LOL. But whoever says that to you in future had it coming anyway. That said, what advice would you give someone who wants to get a tattoo also but is also afraid they might regret the artwork in future?

D: I would say take your time on deciding if you really want the tattoo. And when I say take your time, I mean REALLY take your time. Whether it’s the social stigma associated with tattoos (if you’re bothered by that), or if you’re unsure about the design, if it takes you months or even years to be certain about it, then wait months or years.

There’s no rush when it comes to tattoos. If you’re still afraid about regretting, then take it as a sign that you don’t want the tattoo and forget it. If you’re certain about it then that’s great, find an artist that is suitable for the design you want and get it done!

I’m not one for impulsive tattoos. When I think of getting a tattoo, I take my time to make sure I’m 100% certain before I get it. But that’s just a personal thing, if you’re an impulsive person then what are you waiting for? NO RAGRETS.

We get the reference!! (If you don't, shame on you.) Very sensible statements! Lastly, just for jests: If you could choose a tattoo for ANYONE in KR (cool, humiliating, all up to you) who would it be, what would it be and why?

D: I would get a tattoo of the words “Chez on tolls” in comic sans font to be done on Rene Ann Wong’s forearm. She’s said before that she was thinking of getting inked, so why not pay homage to her latest single on Spotify with a great tattoo?

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So you see, tattoos have diverse origins and all sorts of people get them for different reasons (not just convicts declaring their love for hardcore substance abuse). Various forms of expressions of feelings, life visions and dreams, souvenirs for oneself – they all come together as artful entities in stains on our skin.

We thank the 6 interviewees for their willingness to speak about their tattoos and hope the interviews gave you some scintillating views on our KR residents’ inks and hope that you found it fascinating to know your neighbours’ stories behind their tattoos, so stop asking Llewyn how much his tattoo cost, or if Danny’s tattoo is the evolution of mankind, or if Lionel likes to start brawls at Clarke Quay, or why Zann’s gun is pointed there, or why Stef’s wolf is asymmetrical, or why Anurag’s back functions as http://www.metrolyrics.com for a reggae song.

(Note: This article is not promoting getting inked in any way. The body is a garden, to which the wills are the gardeners, and I am not your gardener)

Photo credits:

Firdaus/Photocomm - Thank you for collaborating with Reporters on this one; for the time & effort in setting up in the media room to take the pictures and editing the photos, without you this wouldn’t have been possible.

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Kent Ridge Hall Reporters 2019