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The past, present, and future in ink


Ziyad Mourad (’15) recently got a tattoo of an anchor with a rope forming the shape of a treble clef on the inside of his arm. Mourad, having gotten his tattoo underage, described his anxiety-filled tattoo parlor experience as frightening. “It was intimidating walking in and going through with the process mainly because if something were to go wrong or if I were to end up not liking the end result, there was nothing I could really do considering I was underage and had to give false information,” he said.

Mourad’s anchor tattoo represents his love for the ocean and his ardor for sailing. He has loved going on boats, riding them and drawing them for as long as he can remember. Three summers ago, Mourad earned his sailing license and has been sailing fanatically ever since. “I always make sure I get three to four weeks of sailing in a year,” he said.

This anchor represents his past as well as his future. Mourad has started to map out various sailing plans for both his senior year and gap-year, and doesn’t want to lose sight of these ambitions. “It reminds me of my future goals of doing trans-Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific and hopefully an around the world sail,” he said.

Nicolo Baravalle (‘14) has been wanting to get tattooed for nearly a year. Denied service previously due to age, turning 18 was a liberating experience.

Baravalle’s birthday celebrations were marked by new tattoos. These included a symbol, which consists of intersecting lines, that is used to brand his music, and his zodiac sign of the cancerian.

The symbol he bears on his right forearm has a nuanced personal significance.

One facet of its importance, is to help him never lose track of what it is he likes to do: create music. A pursuit he’s been following for almost 6 years. Baravalle creates music with Logic Pro, an application that has a sound library filled with an arpeggiator, drum synthesizers, built in instruments, tone sculptures, and many more devices.

When making music, Baravalle not only uses Logic but also uses extra plug ins and synthesizers to manipulate recorded sounds and achieve a certain sound in mind. Typically starting songs from a melody or chord progression he develops them from there and begins to both narrow down the feel of the song whilst also expanding on the sounds within the composition. “I really love music and I hope I can spend the rest of my life it for a living.”

This symbol extends outwards not only to music but also to passion and the pursuit of that, whether or not he continues to create music and be involved in that world. “It reminds me to do what I love even if that changes,” Baravalle said. “Don’t do something if you don’t like doing it.”

Maalik Mbatch (’14) got his first tattoo when he was 16. The tattoo, written in cursive, reads “I am my brother’s keeper.” Mbatch got this tattoo in order to symbolize a turning point in his relationship with his younger brother after his father moved out. “Me and my brother had always been close, but at that point I had to take the responsibility of an older brother very seriously,” he said.

Mbatch’s first tattoo was inspired by the biblical tale of Cain and Abel. In this tale, Cain, son of Adam and Eve, murdered his brother out of jealousy and declared “I am my brother’s keeper”. Cain’s jealousy was triggered by God’s choice to accept his brother’s gift instead of his own. This fable has come to symbolize individual’s tendencies to only be concerned with themselves.

Mbatch looks at his tattoo, remembers Cain’s sin, and uses it to remind himself to be responsible and conscious of his brother’s well being. He also has his brother’s name engraved in script across his forearm to remind himself that he is his brother’s guardian. “As an older brother I am basically his dad,” he said. “I am the eldest role model he has.”

For Mbatch, growing up in Northwest London showed him firsthand the terrors associated with a life of violence and drug usage. So for him, his tattoos are reminders to lead as positive and as healthy a life as possible while keeping in mind where he came from and what he has experienced. “The London that I know and grew up in is a different planet in comparison to ASL. It’s a place where drugs and gangs are normal on the streets and people are scared to walk out of their front door,” he said.

Mbatch’s decision to tattoo the meaning of the three wise monkeys further demonstrates his desire to pursue a life unlike those he was surrounded by as a child. The monkeys, one covering its ears, one covering its mouth, and one covering its eyes, show Mbatch to hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.

The Roman numeral X on his calf represents sobriety. Its origins are rooted in early punk culture when teenagers would go to clubs to hear bands play. Upon entering clubs, those underage would have an X marked on each hand to show that they were not to be served alcohol. The X was initially carried a negative stigma but over time it has became the symbol for abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

Tattoos, in a lot of communities and circles, carry a certain negative connotation about them. However, according to Mbatch, his family and circle of friends never saw tattoos in this light. Ultimately he believes, “It’s a great way to express yourself through art.”

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