Reviving West African Art and Culture Through the Art of Tattooing
Meet Emmanuel Uchenna Item, a 28-year-old Austrian-Nigerian tattoo artist who is using his artistic talent to help individuals reconnect with their cultural roots by incorperating traditional West African art and writing systems such as Uli into his designs.
Nsibidi is one of the many inspirations for Item’s art. The ancient writing system originated in Nigeria in the fourth century and was used by several southeastern peoples, including the Igbo people. Thanks to the neo-nsibidi project (Akagu) by Chiadikōbi Nwaubani, the script has been making a comeback, even inspiring designs in the blockbuster film Black Panther.
Born and raised in Vienna, Item had little contact with his African heritage until he was inspired to learn more. Since then, he started making regular visits to Nigeria, and by incorporating aspects of his cultural heritage into his work, he is reminded of where he comes from every day. Item plans to hold tattoo sessions in major cities with significant Nigerian populations, including Lagos, London, and Paris.
Image: Item and his work.