Arts & Leisure

Wolf Ink-Overcoming the odds of tattoo taboo

Chris Theko

Neo Ntlaloe also known as Wolf OG is a self-taught artist from Lower Thamae in Maseru district. He started out as a dancer and a lover of graffiti straining and drawing. 

Although his parents never liked half the things he was into, he never stopped as he says he knew that art was his destiny

“My parents never liked it, my mother did not like me dancing or drawing because she was concerned more about the grades at school than anything else so she would say those are useless things and that I needed to focus on my books.

“But at the end of the day, she found out that anything that makes me happy, she would have to accept and then she adapted,” says Wolf OG.

Much like most teenage boys, Ntlaloe was not a saint, getting into trouble at school while he was at Sefika High School he was expelled when he was doing Form C for getting into a fight then he moved on to a remedial center where he completed his high school.

Soon after that, he started teaching hip hop and contemporary dancing at Machabeng College while also practicing graffiti (he says a number of paintings belong to him around Maseru CBD) and making comfortable money for himself.

He then left Lesotho for South Africa heading for Durban, Kwazulu Natal and that’s where he says he fell in love with tattooing.

“I left Lesotho for Durban which is where I fell in love with the art of tattoos and started doing it and learning the business here and there, even entered and won a couple of competitions, one I won in Durban and one in Pretoria. 

“I have always been on my own, I can boldly say I am a self-made tattoo artist because no one really taught me or gave me the capital to start my business because I used some the money I had saved from the dancing and competitions,” he said. 

“I met one Chinese guy during some of the tattoo competitions around 2009 who somewhat showed me a few tricks here and there but just enhancing what I already had and I also used the internet a lot to learn and brush up my skills,” he continues. 

He says he had to use oranges that for practicing because as he recalls he had no access to practicing mats back then. 

He says it was not an easy task to pull up a tattoo shop in Lesotho because of how hard it is to convince Basotho when something is new to them. 

“Basotho only believe in you when they see something hence I just started with a few that believed in me, mostly my friends. 

“Tattooing is a good career I can say, it depends on how you treat it. In fact, everything is a career as long as you can get people to believe in it,” he says.

“In Lesotho, art is not appreciated because if that was the case I would have already sourced and gotten sponsorships to expand the business and hired more Basotho, it’s only now that we are gradually seeing some change but it takes doing a lot of work to be able to be recognised.

“Since last year, I have opened up classes to young Basotho who aspire to be tattoo artists but only a minor percentage understand what I am doing. People need to understand that not all of us will make it because of conventional schooling because some people are born with the artistic gift,” he warns.

Ntlaloe has been running Wolf INK tattoo studios based in Lower Thamae since 2015.

He says although people in black communities see a tattoo as a bad thing, getting one is actually therapeutic and can reduce the number of suicides especially amongst young people.

“Tattoos are not evil instead they act as a stress reliever, it is a therapy. There are very slim chances that one could actually go on and commit suicide having had the experience of getting a tattoo. I like it when people punch something as a result of the pain, it reduces stress and frustration,” he adds proudly. 

He says his vison is to put Lesotho on the map as one of the countries in Africa where people from across the world can come get the best tattoos.  Lesotho is now boasting with some of the best tattoo artists including Tholi Thatho and Phoenix to name a few.     

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