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Cairo Tattoo Convention: Inking The City

The second incarnation of the Cairo Tattoo Convention will be hitting the city soon, so ahead of the mammoth inking event May Mansour speaks to founder Orne Gil about the slew of international tattoo artists set to participate, as well as a myriad of divergent performers.

I make my way out of the CairoScene office on a warm afternoon to head over to Zamalek and meet up with Orne Gil for a chat about the second edition of the Cairo Tattoo Convention, which will be taking place the 6th and 7th of November. The sun was out - in Egypt's signature full-force of course - a cool breeze running through the open windows of a cab with the driver casually blasting Red Red Wine.

I simply couldn’t be in a better state of mind as we head to Nowhereland Tattoo Studio, founded in 2011 in a small shop in Zamalek, and now relocated to their own venue in a tower in the same area, where Gil and her assistant manager Karim Shaheen live and work independently. I stroll into the studio and am greeted with a beer, as we take a seat on a plush blue couch and prepare to discuss what this year’s convention is all about.

Gil, along with photojournalist Ines Della Valle and social media manager Joana Marghella, will be working together to curate and manage the event. The Cairo Tattoo Convention will host artists from around the world as Gil fervidly dedicates her time and effort, while effectively using her international networks, to introduce tattoo culture in all its artistry and glory to Egypt, and help tattoo fanatics learn more of the heterogeneous and characteristic styles of tattooing. “The best thing about this year is all the international artists coming in - last year we were only six local artists in a small space. It wasn’t very much but we were all busy working and we had international journalists over covering the event so it was still a success,” says Gil as we sip on our respective beers in excitement and total anticipation, “23 artists and two piercers have been booked so far, including a few additions from Istanbul, Spain and Italy, along with tattoo artist Chris Powers from the U.S."

An ultra-inked Gil continues, "Vicente Ibáñez is another tattoo artist from Chile specialised in traditional and Japanese tattoos; a very old friend of mine whom I’m looking forward to host and see again. So the tattoo artists along with the performers this year are all under one roof and we’ll be working together from 3 PM to midnight for the two days.” I was also excited to learn that I had a few common friends (punks and squatters from London) with tattoo artists Mishla Nacho from Spain, and Meerak Meinohg from Berlin, both of whom I’m personally excited to meet and exchange some certainly interesting stories of our dealings with our chaotic UK friends!

So far almost 4000 attendees have RSVP’d on the Cairo Tattoo Convention's Facebook event page, and with a number so massive, compared to their 250 attendees last year, the crew are forced to think twice before they pick a venue to ensure that the capacity can hold everyone, and hopefully will be able to serve alcohol. “We’re looking for a big space and it’s not easy because, well, not everybody wants to host a tattoo convention,” says Gil, “We’re also considering selling tickets before the event as opposed to on door as last year, to start weighing the numbers.”

The event, though primarily revolving around tattoos, will also feature a slew of different performers, including dancers, musicians, and graffiti artists. A potentially exciting piece of news for all you underground performers out there as well is that Gil is still looking to fill some slots over the two-day event! “The bigger issue we’re facing now is finding more interesting performers. We got graffiti artist Andy Watson from Scotland on the bill, and are still trying to get Egyptian graffiti artists get involved but it’s proving to be difficult. But we've also got some other interesting performers; we got a pole dancer from England coming to perform with her team, a belly dancer, and a few DJs. We’re looking for some Techno DJs too but good Techno, none of that melodic shit they play around here sometimes, as well as maybe some theatrical performers, and good bands - no boring stuff,” Gil tells me.

It feels quite surreal knowing that in a couple of months I’ll be standing in a friggin relatively large-scale tattoo convention in Egypt! It is the first of its kind around here and a grand chapter unleashed, giving alternative kids the space and chance to come together, get to know each other, watch some good bands and acts, talk music, get a proper diverse dose of tattoo art in every corner and potentially expand our horizon on the matter, with a massive thanks to Nowhereland who have worked quite hard over the years to make all that happen! “We work every day now at the studio here,” Gil tells me, “I have at least one session a day; people are getting more tattoos, but most people in the country usually want standard tattoos that everyone already has or the ones they find online or whatever, but maybe after this next international convention they’ll see that there are more options and styles of tattoos, and hopefully be more open to new ideas afterwards.”

Gil constantly promotes the studio and tattoo culture every chance she gets; it was a relentless breath of fresh air to be in the presence of her and Shaheen, both living together and revolving their lives around what they believe in, all tattooed up and dressed as they please. I kind of felt like spending the night over there, and possibly crying myself to sleep over how awesome this all is, but our little chat has to come to an end. I hug them both goodbye and make my way out, and now here I am, counting down the days to Fuck Yeah.

If you feel like you fit the profile of performers wanted for the event, feel free to apply here, and check out their website here.