Tattoos at TEDActive

By Carel Nolte

Tattoos are an art. They have meaning. They can be fun, challenging, frivolous and funny. Some are poignant. All of them are personal.

As someone who has two tattoos — the first is my continent Africa on my ankle, which is about 5 years old, and the second is my city Johannesburg’s skyline, which I got a month ago on my upper thigh — I love looking at tattoos, discussing them and thinking about what I will get next. I also find a good tattoo on a woman or a man incredibly sexy :) And so, while I was running on the treadmill at the Fairmont gym on Monday I noticed my new friend Afshin Mousavian (one of the great TEDxToronto organizers) walking past with his great tattoos. I asked TEDActive attendees to send in photos and was very excited by the variety. Check out a few below!

P.S. Afshin still owes the TEDActive community photos of his tattoos, so watch our Facebook page. And if any other TEDActivators want to share their tattoos, please do so!

Carel Nolte, South Africa

The cut across Africa came from dropping a block of ice on the tattoo at Burning Man!

Brian Smith, Omaha, USA.

Brian tells me he’s the black sheep of his family. And his work involves farms and animals. So I loved him showing me his tattoo at our Welcome Party … and learning more about him. He neglected to tell me that he would be one of the TEDYou speakers though … nonetheless I LOVED his talk today. You see, people with tattoos are very clever people. Brian would love to chat more about sheep, chickens and farm animals.


Daniel Meier, Vancouver, Canada

Daniel decided a week ago to apply to TEDActive! Lucky for us or else we would have missed this awesome tattoo worked on by three artists. Despite living across the Covention Centre in Vancouver, Daniel is very happy he came to Whistler!


Julie Gorman Buffalo, NY, USA

Julie’s tattoos are in Ukrainian and in her own handwriting. Love the uniqueness! The right foot says, “Virtue ennobles all things.” The left says, “Passion enables all things.” The right is the coat of arms of the anglicized version of her Ukrainian family name. The left is a phrase she chooses to live by. Together, they guide her!


Carla Staffa, St Paul, USA

This lovely tattoo was designed by one of Carla’s students in Europe. I love the colour, the whimsical nature, the placement and want Carla to get more like this! Simply beautiful.


Meng He, NYC ,USA

Meng went along to a tattoo parlor to support a friend (you see, people with tattoos are very caring!) At the parlor, on the spur of the moment, she decided to get this tattoo. It symbolizes what she lives by – saying YES to new experiences.


I leave you with that thought – let’s all join Meng and say YES to new experiences this week! And yes to more tattoos, an art form that has come a long way.

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