Tattooing is an indigenous art form that has been practiced across the globe since the very early days of mankind. One day in 2017, despite not really knowing each other, Gesiye Souza-Okpofabri and Maya Cross-Lovelace went to talk to Obasi Springer about their (personal) tattoo ideas and left as tattoo apprentices. Before that day, the two had never spent time together. Although they attended Bishop Anstey High School at the same time for five years, they somehow never even met. However, as fate would have it, they met when they did, to go on this creative journey together.
Gesiye, born of a Nigerian father and Trinidadian mother, has always been known for doing art and creating through different mediums. For the past two years she has been learning the craft of tattooing but this isn’t all when it comes to art for her. She studied art during her university years and also has experience in photography, film, dance and music. She told We Mag: “I’ve always been attracted to body modification and tattoos, from drawing on myself in primary school to getting my first ink. I remember wanting to learn how to tattoo even before I actually thought that it was something that I could do professionally.” Likewise, Maya has always done art and been interested in different forms of artistic expression, including photography and fashion. In the process of searching for what she wanted to do with her life, she realised that she wanted to do something that involved drawing more, creating with her hands, and interfacing with people in a personal way. Tattooing answered that call.
Today, the two are artists who create tattoos as a radical expression of self love through ‘Bald Babes Ink’. As they learnt more about tattooing, it began to develop into something else, something intentional. To the creative duo, getting a tattoo is transformational—it has the capacity to change your relationship with your body. As tattooed women themselves, they admit to having gone through the experience of thinking about their bodies and their skin as an exploration of themselves and more, so they take joy in being able to share that. “With that in mind,” said the creative duo, “we sought after creating an environment that is intentionally centred around the experiences of women, people of colour and LGBTI+ folks and a space that feels safe and comfortable for anyone who comes in.” Here is some more of what the bald babes had to share with us in an interview WE had with them:
What are you all working on at present, what is keeping you excited?
We really want to get into mural painting. We’ve actually just started working on one in our new studio space. Other than that, we both create art in so many different ways and want to keep exploring that. We love playing and experimenting with creativity and don’t feel limited by any particular medium. Our friends and our community keep us growing and glowing and feeling excited about sharing our art.
What are some of your treasured milestones?
Some milestones that we feel really happy about are our tattoo apprenticeship with Obasi Springer; learning how to screenprint with artist Greer Jones Woodham then making and selling our own Bald Babes Merch in the form of tees and totes; and throwing a really sweaty Bald Babes Bashment earlier this year to celebrate our anniversary. Our biggest one to date, is moving out of our mentor’s studio and into our own space on Tragarete Road. We’re now sharing space with Idlewood, an artist hub owned by designer, Marcus Ling and managed by artist, Omar Jarra. We’ll be having our first open house at the studio on Friday, September 20th. We’re also participating in our first ever Tattoo Fest at the Centre of Excellence this Sunday, September 15th.
What is your ultimate goal or biggest dream for your future as a team?
A tattoo tour would be amazing; we would love to travel with our craft and go to international conventions and continue to learn and explore. We want to raise funds to do public murals. It is important to us that the art we create is accessible. Another major goal is to bring Burna Boy, popular Afrobeats artiste, to T&T. Anyone who can help us achieve this will be greatly appreciated. Ultimately, our goals all centre around using our creativity to build meaningful connections with our community.
Why do you do what you do
Gesiye: “I love making art personal and accessible. I love the connections that are created through this art, and the freedom that I feel getting tattooed and creating tattoos. There’s something special about taking ownership of your body and claiming your power to adorn it in whatever way feels right for you. Usually, tattooing exists outside of the social and cultural norms we grow up with and it can be so freeing to be able to step outside of those rules and follow your heart. It’s also just the coolest work I’ve ever done. I get to create art, work on my own schedule and spend time with my friends. It’s beautiful.”
Maya: “I really enjoy the process of tattooing, interacting with someone and creating something unique (for that person). I also enjoy designing tattoos based on a theme. When someone gets a tattoo and they love it, it’s really fulfilling to see. I like that immediate gratification of my job. Although tattooing is what we do, we are artists and enjoy creating outside of that as well; I love that being a tattoo artist allows me to do so. Being tattoo artists is a political statement about our bodies and the relationship we have with them and how we agree to take up space. That is very empowering.