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Can He Break Down Tunisia’s Hostile Tattoo Culture?

The Wachem Tattoo Shop has been an exciting fixture since 2016, when it became Tunisia’s first licensed tattoo studio operated by Fawez Zahmoul, who is breathing new life into the Arab world’s tattoo scene. “I realized my dream,” he says, having also opened the region’s first tattoo school in January 2019 in Tunis. Tattoos are not new to the Arab world, and certainly not to North Africa. For centuries, its indigenous Amazigh tribes — christened Berbers by the French — practiced the art, an inherent part of their cultural identity. However, with colonization and Islamization, tattoos became a source of shame and were ultimately deemed illegal. Today, underground salons thrive everywhere, but destigmatizing tattoo art is Zahmoul’s main aim, and his efforts are paying off.