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Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Sabah meets with officials of the Ministry of Interior.—KUNA
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Sabah meets with officials of the Ministry of Interior.—KUNA

New cybercrime law protects on-line users

When Scout Frank lost her mother, she knew she needed to keep her close — and hit upon the perfect solution when she found she could have her ashes tattooed into her skin. Clutching a small wooden box containing the cremated remains of her mom, Frank was emotional as she arrived at the tattoo studio of artist Kat Dukes in the California city of Oceanside. “It’s a little bit overwhelming,” she said, her voice choking. “But I know I’m in really good hands. I’m really looked forward to just making my mama an even more permanent piece of my life.”

Dukes’ tattoo studio has a different aesthetic to many of those dotting main streets and strip malls all over the United States, and much of the western world. Instead of roses, skulls or other traditional designs lining the counter it is immaculate, its clean white walls and scented candles evoking more of a spa than a tattoo parlor. Dukes reverently scoops a small measure of ashes from the box in readiness for mixing with the ink. “Come on, mom!” says Frank, whose tears have begun to turn into a smile. “It’s respect for her in a different kind of way rather than just having her sitting in my house,” she says.

By hand

Dukes, who has built a loyal following at her Steel Honey studio thanks to her style of hand poke tattoo — in which the artists use a needle dipped in ink and poked into the skin dot by dot, rather than by machine — began incorporating cremains over three years ago when a client said he wanted to honor a pet dog. “I had heard that this could be done, but I didn’t know how, so I looked it up,” she tells AFP.

In fact, tattooing with wood ashes is an ancient practice — and the use of cremation ashes is a growing trend that has seen some US funeral homes link up with tattoo parlors, or even post instructions for making the ink on their websites. “It was pretty simple — just add ash, so that’s what we did,” Dukes said. “It just made it that much more special. It healed the same and he loved the tattoo, and he would always, always tell people that there was his dog’s ashes in the tattoo.”

Videos of Dukes’ black inked hand-wrought tattoos have made the rounds on social media — bringing a surge of interest. A lot of it is positive, but not all. “I do get a lot of criticism for doing this,” she says. “A lot of people will argue that it’s unsanitary. I understand that this process is not for everybody.” Dukes insists there is no risk of infection or contamination from the ashes — done properly, a tattoo’s ink sits in the dermis and does not migrate to the bloodstream. And cremations are carried out at such high temperatures the ashes are usually sterile.

Dukes inks a hand poked tattoo of a dove on Frank using ink mixed with the ashes of Frank's cremated mother.
Dukes inks a hand poked tattoo of a dove on Frank using ink mixed with the ashes of Frank's cremated mother.

California tattoo parlors must meet legislated health standards, and Dukes says inspectors have affirmed that her work is safe and does not violate any regulations on the use of cremated remains. And, she argues, the criticism is mostly because people in the United States are unfamiliar with it. “It’s something that people don’t really hear about that often, and things that are foreign to people they’re pretty much gonna immediately disregard.” — AFP

Dukes herself has embraced the practice, and has her father’s ashes in a tattoo. “I still just really love being able to do this for people because there’s not a lot of tattoo artists that are vocal about doing it,” she says.

Meaningful

For Frank, the chance to etch a meaningful, and lasting memory on her skin, is very special. The design she asked Dukes to create was a simple outline of a dove with open wings — a shape that is indelibly linked in her mind with her mother. “When I was younger, instead of saying ‘I love you’, she would say ‘I dove you’,” smiles Frank. “So it’s just something that’s like so simple, but it’s something that’s really meaningful to me.” Above all, the fact that she will always have her mother with her is what matters. “She’s already a part of me,” says Frank. “But she’s really going to be a part of me forever and always going to be going on all these adventures with me.” – AFP

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