Onyx performs at the Welcome Party

The return of TEDActive tattoos

A year ago, I wrote about the tattoos at TEDActive 2014. It was great to see how much debate it generated, and how many friends it led to — proof that art creates fantastic conversations.

I wanted to see what new tattoos were making an appearance at TEDActive this year. (Sadly I still only have my two.) I got the story from three TEDActive virgins, and I was again blown away by the phenomenal meanings of these artworks.

John E. Wells is a mover at TEDxCody who took a seventeen-hour bus ride to meet us in Vancouver. He does phenomenal skateboarding tricks, raises funds for Afghan women accessing education via skateboards, and he’ll be joining Jill Sobule on stage today as part of the TEDActive band. He has this to say about his tattoo:

Attendee John Wells' tattoo“Golden eagle feather on my ring finger. I was born on the cusp of revolution (Scorpio/Sagittarius) and recently learned that the signs associated with Scorpio are the scorpion, the eagle and the phoenix. I got the tat three weeks ago in my living room, on my couch. My feather tattoo represents the transitions I’m going through in life, the desire to be transformed and to soar to new heights.”

Amanda Quam, who came in from South Dakota, is a co-organizer of TEDxBrookings. Her tattoos come from communal experiences, and have meanings that connect her to important people in her life:

Attendee Amanda Quam's tattoo“I got the three tiny stars, clustered to be about the size of a half dollar, on my right side of my lower back on my belt line when I left for college. There were three friends who were very close at the time, who worked at the Valleyfair amusement park in Minnesota before we went off to college. The three of us all picked a color and got the same tattoo with the same layout in the same spot to symbolize our time together and our friendship. Mine is the red one.

Attendee Amanda Quam's other tattooThe other one I got a few years later, on my lower back, left side. It’s about the size of a pop can top. When our youngest brother turned eighteen, my three siblings and I all got tattoos together. They all have similarities, as they all incorporate the Ohm symbol (a measure of resistance in electrical current, and also my maiden name). Ohm is the primordial sound, the first breath of creation, the vibration that ensures existence. That is a comfortable thought for me to have permanently on my body. The fire on top of Ohm symbol is because I always wanted a tattoo with fire.

These tattoos are now going on 10 years or more.  After I took these pics, I realized I need to get them a little touched up – I never see them since they are on my back.  I have a friend who is getting her Ph.D., and when she graduates we are going to get a tattoo together.  At 33, I am not sure how many more I will get, but I definitely enjoy tattoos in general, I enjoy hearing stories of how and why people get theirs, and the symbolism behind them.”

And Nathalie Molina Niño, who is passionate about storytelling, discovered an incredible story behind her tattoo:

Attendee Nathalie Molina Nino's tattoo“When I turned 33, I got an Incan Sun and an Andean condor tattooed on my mid-spine. Later that same year I learned that in my home country of Ecuador there was an important prophecy among the indigenous communities around the time we’re entering now, which is known as the time of the Condor. It has to do with the connecting of cultures, North and South, in peace. It’s also meant to be the end of the cycle of poverty, and domination of one over the other that started 500 years ago. I had no idea about this when I got the tattoo. It was just a happy surprise that came afterwards.”

Anyone else who wants to share a tattoo can do so on our Facebook group for TEDActive2015 Attendees.

Have an awesome week, my friends! Maybe we’ll meet in the Village at the tattoo parlour.

By Carel Nolte

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