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North Africa’s first tattoo school revives an old tradition in Tunisia

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North Africa’s first tattoo school revives an old tradition in Tunisia
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The National School of Tattooing, which opened its doors in Tunisia in January, is the only one of its kind in North Africa.

The institute was founded by 35-year-old Fawez Zahmoul, a former engineer who began to learn tattooing in 2006 as a way to earn extra cash whilst living in Morocco.

It took him six years to master the art and now he owns the only legalised tattoo studio in Tunisia.

Zahmoul now aims to make tattooing a respected career in the country.

Zahmoul teaching at the National School of Tattooing

“I founded this school because I felt it’s time for me to pass on my know-how to other tattoo enthusiasts,” he says.

Over a six month period, students aged 19 to 30 learn all aspects of the craft.

The tuition costs them $1400 (approximately €1250) and, upon completion, the course earns them a graduate certificate which allows them to work professionally.

A student practicing on synthetic skin at the National School of Tattooing

The school, located in the north of Tunis, follows the Ministry of Health's guidelines to ensure the safety of its students and their future clients.

Health inspector Dr. Taha Zinelabidin says that due to the potential health complications of tattooing, the school will remain under the ministry’s close supervision.

“We are not against this school, but it is important that it follows lots of rules and regulations,” he says.

PRESERVING THE TATTOO TRADITION

Whilst the National School of Tattooing is raising awareness of contemporary tattooing in Tunisia, a traditional practice has been used by Berbers living in North Africa for centuries.

A Berber woman with traditional tattoos

In the absence of makeup, women commonly use a blunt tool and a natural, plant-based black ink which fades to green over the years.

The tattoo designs include symbols of purity or fertility, which are usually etched onto their faces and upper bodies.

Ink artist Manel Mahdouani specialises in this form of inking and travels to local villages to preserve the ancient art form.

Ink artist Manel Mahdouani studies Berber tattoos

“Whenever I meet a tattooed woman, I try to speak to her, and understand why she had those tattoos,” she says. “[I’d] take a picture if she’d let me, or copy the tattoo she has.”

Mahdouani aims to archive all of the material she’s gathered and one day release a book, in a bid to leave her own unique mark on Tunisia’s tattoo history.

SEEN ON SOCIAL: LEAVING A MARK

Sabrina shared a photo whilst doing matching tattoos with her husband in Tunis to seal their love.