Meet Rwanda's tattoo master

For 26-year-old Mohammed Mugabo, alias Papito, life as a tattoo artist was not a choice but a matter of survival.
The process is slightly painful but not harmful.
The process is slightly painful but not harmful.

For 26-year-old Mohammed Mugabo, alias Papito, life as a tattoo artist was not a choice but a matter of survival.

As a child, Papito, was not your ordinary teenager. At a tender age, he learnt the hard way: to be responsible and fend for himself following the death of his father.

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Papito has worked on tattoos for stars and ordinary people alike.

Papito was inspired by his elder brother who was passionate about painting.  This saw him forge umbilical ties with art and craft at a tender age.

Born in Nyarugenge district in 1988, Mugabo attended primary school at Escaf located in Mumena, before enrolling at Ecole Technique du Muhazi (ETM) where he completed senior six.

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Papito uses an electric tattoo machine to do body ink

When he was in primary 6, he started out as a tattoo artist. He would first draw some image on the customer’s hand and he recalls, the images would come out well and the customers were happy about it. It is at this point that he decided to take the road of being a tattoo artist.

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Some of Papito's works

It’s from this job that he has been able to earn a decent living.

Beyond tattooing, he has also ventured into painting.

“I do painting on cloth. Sometimes clients just want me to paint pictures of celebrities on their T-shirts, on their trousers and sometimes I do wall designs.I use brushes and some paint to design a picture on a client’s piece of cloth,” Papito said.

But life as a tattoo artist in Rwanda is not without its hiccups, as he says many people are not aware about the places to get this service and some people have a negative perception about the art of tattooing.

Some fear that the process is very painful while others associate tattoos with people whose morals are questionable.

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