In one of my previous articles on this blog I discussed what I considered to be the most embarrassing Arabic tattoo mistakes – disconnected letters, written in the wrong direction and offensive tattoos. I thought it was pretty clear that most people would like to steer clear of these pitfalls. However, Kiba sent me the following comment about my article:
I think this is total B.S. a tattoo is personal and you can do what you want with it. I personally have the four letters of my name “disconnected” that an artist put together in an art piece for me. It means a lot to me and I’m not writing an arabic book on my body, it’s ART, so why feel like I have to put these constraints on myself? it’s your body…do what you want with it!
Here is what I replied:
Kiba, I completely disagree with you.
Of course, everyone is free to get the tattoos they want and it’s great that you like your tattoo. But remember, most people will be highly uncomfortable with a tattoo that is incorrect, nonseniscal or even worse doesn’t mean what they want it to.
Knowing Arabic and then deciding that you want to have disconnected letters for artistic reasons (fully aware of the fact that in 99% of all cases this is a bad decision) is different from getting a wrong tattoo due to not knowing the language.
Something being art presupposes that you are actually aware of the different nuances of the Arabic script and of its rules. Only then are you in a good position to judge whether you really want to break conventions for artistic reasons.
Having a tattoo read “I’m awsome [sic!]” or “Everyone Elese [sic!] Does” or “Only God will juge [sic!] me” is a mistake in the vast majority of cases and an embarrassment most people would like to avoid. And so is an Arabic tattoo that is not spelt correctly or obviously simply a mistake that is the result of a failed copy-pasting attempt.
Where do you stand on this issue? Does art permit everything? Even when the individual is not aware that what he is doing is contrary to convention (think “juge” instead of “judge”)? Am I too pedantic? I would love to hear your comments.