When a euphoric 30-year-old British tattoo artist, Sophia Disgrace, took off her top to show her tattoos, and broke into a dance that always drew applause globally, little did she know that her topless act will have her thrown out of the International Tattoo Convention she came to attend in
India. Following the uproar, authorities at Haryana Tourism suspended Rajeev Sabarwal, the general manager of Hotel Rajhans, Surajkund where the 2nd India’s International Tattoo Convention took place.
A police complaint was also registered against the organisers of the three-day event that began on Friday. The incident has spurred a debate on whether India is ready for international artist performances. “We were not expecting something like this. We were taken aback when Sophia took off her clothes. But her only motive was to show off her tattoos. It was her first visit to India and she wasn’t aware of our cultural norms,” says Sabarwal.
Organiser of the convention, Deepak Chauhan, says there was nothing obscene in Sophia’s act. “She had covered some portion of her upper body with silicone tape. In her apology letter to us, she said she had no idea that her act will cause such a furore. We had informed the participating artists that nudity is unacceptable in India, but going topless did not amount to nudity for her,” says Chauhan.
He adds that such an outcry would portray a regressive image of India in front of the world. “You can’t equate tattoo art with vulgarity. Tattoo artists have no qualms about taking off clothes to show their art. Such incidents will deter us from inviting artists to India,” says Chauhan. Tattoo artists in the city agree. “India is not ready for bold performances. In Europe, tattoo artists often go topless. Some Indian tribal women too have godna (tattoo) on their upper body and are partially dressed. The problem lies with the dirty mindsets,” says tattoo artist Lokesh Verma of Devilz Tattooz.
Some, however, believe that there was no need for Sophia to go topless. “If she wanted to flaunt tattoos, even wearing a tube top would have sufficed,” says tattoo artist Harshit Karki of Rip Tattoos.