If you’ve been thinking about getting some ink done, the International Tattoo Convention was the ideal place to check out the latest trends in tattoo culture. Southern Ink Xposure 2009 took place from the 23 to the 25th of January, and was held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The event was the first of its kind in South Africa and featured top tattoo artists from around the globe and nifty tattoos like this UV tattoo you see here.

The convention was buzzing with ink enthusiasts who sported designs ranging from the small and delicate to the in-your-face outrageous. For tattoo virgins, it was the opportunity to take advantage of some great international talent. And for the colourful crowds who were already inked from head to toe – it was the chance to flaunt bold body art, and get another “tat” or two.
There was an abundance of unique designs on display, mostly in traditional black and colour tattoos.

Still, Europe and America’s latest tattoo trends were on the minds and lips of many artists and visitors. The backlight tattoo seems to be among the most popular as far as trends are concerned. UV tattoos glow under black light, and are virtually invisible in ordinary lighting (although scarring may be seen). The inks used, however, are potentially dangerous: only a few varieties have been approved by the FDA. Some UV inks have caused adverse skin reactions, such as dermatitis; the inks are also suspected carcinogens.

Whilst some tattoo artists are concerned about the medical complications associated with UV inks, others just don’t think they look that great.

“There are very few tattooists that do that kind of thing,” claims Shaun Nel, a tattoo artist who attended the convention. Nel prefers colour tattoos, “anything that’s really pretty”. For artists like Nel, the body is a canvas for art and self-expression. And new trends like white and UV tattoos don’t offer the same artistic fulfilment as traditional tattoos.

Whichever type and style of tattoo you choose, it’s important to do your homework, and stick to the professionals. To avoid any blood-borne diseases, such as HIV or Hepatitis B, stick to well-known, clean tattoo shops, and ensure that artists sterilise instruments properly before each use.