Black History Month: Vancouver tattoo artist Zion Greene-Bull

Blackness is the most important requirement for getting tattooed.

While tattooing is becoming more common, the practice remains difficult to obtain in Vancouver. Local tattoo artist wants to change this.

Zion Greene Bull has been participating in a Black History Month Project for five years. This is to reconnect with Black roots and learn about Black history and communities.

Greene Bull plans to offer tattoos free of charge for Black History Month 2023 which falls in February. To get tattooed, you must be Black.

Greene Bull says, “Based on my experience and the experiences of others Blacks, especially those with darker skin tones, there’s a shocking amount of barriers that hinder us from enjoying a good experience in tattooing.” Vancouver Is Awesome. “I wanted something to help counteract this, and also bring joy to my community.”

All Black people are welcome, particularly those that are queer, transgender or larger than average, and who have disabilities, as well as anyone experiencing poverty, are welcomed by the tattoo artist. Greene Bull says that these intersections could make it more difficult for someone to get a tattoo.

The booking form will go out in January 2023. Those interested may book an appointment free of charge for February.

Crowdfunding to pay for materials and other costs

Greene Bull started a fund to pay for the cost of supplies and time needed for tattooing, as well as studio space.

They hope the event will provide an enjoyable and relaxing experience in tattooing for the community and that other similar events can be inspired.

As of Nov. 1, the fundraiser has raised just over $2,300 of its $8,500 goal.

Greene Bull will tattoo at the Baohaus Collective Studio. She will also have access to a studio in private for accessibility appointments.

Tattooing is racist

Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census found that approximately one per cent (or 1%) of B.C.Blacks make up around one percent of B.C. In tattooing this means people who are looking for a tattoo will be more inclined to have it done by non-Black artists.

“Every single Black person I know who has been tattooed including myself has a story about an uncomfortable encounter getting tattooed, whether it’s someone telling them they shouldn’t get colour in their tattoo, being forced to listen to racist shop banter, or having to sit through someone telling them how difficult it is to tattoo them. Greene-Bull shares that he has personally experienced it multiple times in Vancouver, even though he is a mixed/light skin Black man.

Tattooing is a sacred and ancient practice, they tell V.I.A., and those getting tattooed deserve a relaxed and trusting experience. Greene Bull says that people aren’t “canvases”, and emphasizes that any background, age or gender, as well as skin color, cultural origin, ability, or body size should not hinder someone from having a respectful, safe tattooing experience.

The tattoo artist says that more artists are now taking a sensitive, trauma-informed approach to their work. He hopes that this trend will continue.

Colonialism condemned these actions and then co-opted them, making it difficult for us as tattoo artists to do so even now in 2022,” the two share. We deserve to be tattooed and tattooed in safe and comfortable settings.

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