If Nairobi was like let’s say California, you would see way more tattoos and tattooed men and women than you are accustomed to. But it’s not, so yeah, so much for that. We are and for a very long time will remain as a conservative bunch of people and it is okay because that is what makes us who we are, Kenyans. This spuns from our folks, from their folks and from their folks before them.
It is however not uncommon to find a good number of us deviating from what is ‘the norm’ in our society and shunning the conservative nature that is ‘kawa’ to most Kenyans. This in turn gets us ‘ink heads’ branded as deviants and delinquents, weird and even crazy which oddly enough I personally don’t seem to mind. (I feel it gives me an edge over the rest of you ‘normal’ folks out there lol). By now am sure the picture I have painted in your head after all that rhetoric is of this heavily tattooed ‘jamaa’ from neck to toe right? Good. 🙂
So awhile back I met up with this young lady, that’s right, I sed lady, who is as tattooed as the word tattoo gets and guess what, she is as Kenyan as they get.
Noreen Wambui Murray is a 26 year old young lady and a producer by profession. My 1st impression upon meeting her was simply WOW! With a visible sleeve that she is truly proud of, you know the story is only gonna keep getting interesting.
She got her 1st tattoo at only the age of 15, a rose on her chest and from there on she was totally hooked.
Her second tatt came knocking while she was in college. While in Kenya on holiday from her studies in the UK she decided to get tattoo number two a Chinese kanji symbol after her and her mum weren’t getting along to well. She admits to me that she got it to ’piss her the hell off’… well sub-consciously anyway since she had no intention of ever letting her see it. She did however see it and boy did Noreen get what was coming to her, lol.
Awhile later back in the UK, Noreen got tattoo number 3 which was rose number 2on her belly for her best friend whom she had lost. That was then followed by covering it up with a tribal which later acted as the tail feather of a swallow she got also on her belly.
Did I mention that Noreen is a proud mum? Probably even one of the coolest ones you’ll ever come across. Her daughter’s name is Aaliyah, prettiest little thing ever and her name is forever engraved on mummy’s back with 5 stars around it.
On Noreen’s leg is a really nice bow tattoo in memory of her ex who passed away in April while working a story about the plight of the homeless in a part of the UK where he actually had to live on the streets day and night. Sadly he succumbed to the harsh conditions.
On her lower back is a tattoo of a pin-up girl which personally embodies who Noreen is and her character as a strong and beautiful woman.
At this point we were nowhere near tackling her sleeve tattoo, and just when I thought it was time to do so, she unleashes this sweet and big Black Panther tattoo on her thigh and I was just like WTH! I thought I loved tattoos or even knew people, who loved them, but Noreen certainly took it to another level and I was humbled.
Then came the sleeve and its symbolism to her life, growth and all that she had been through and had aspired to be. At the top of the shoulder is a very symbolic quote to her and a pair of praying hands. Further down we see a clock that is very much symbolic to her relationship with her daughter. A good versus bad skull head tattoos that reflect her struggle between having to finish school and wanting to work for the BBC (which she eventually achieved FYI).
This by far as an artist and as an individual was by far my favorite piece of them all, it tells the story of who Noreen is, what she has faced and over-come in her life, her past and future all rolled up onto her left arm. AMAZING.
Asked what she would like to tell anyone who dares ask her why so many tattoos? Her response with that heavy English accent was ‘it’s my shell and I will decorate it however I like’ and decorate she has being one of the most devoted female ink lover I can now proudly say I know am inspired by her story, love her tattoos and absolutely respect her attitude and self-confidence.