The township ink master

A budding businessman has turned his shack into a buzzing business venture. Photographer Cebile Ntuli joins him as he goes about his daily routine.

Meeting Moeketsi “FlyX” Kumane for the first time, you would swear he is a hip-hop artist or a gangster – depending on which part of town you come from.

From a big star tattooed on his neck to a tear drop tattoo under his left eye, his body is covered with ink of different kinds and sizes – from his face to his toes.

Born in Tembisa, the 27-year-old started his tattoo business five years ago in a small room built of corrugated iron, about 500m from his home.

“I want a better life for my kids” says Kumane, reflecting on the reason he started his business.

He learnt the trade from his late friend and never looked back.

The room is always abuzz, not only with clients but also spectators who enjoy listening to the sound when he’s busy performing his job. But they are not allowed inside the small “surgery” when he is busy.

Moeketsi Kumane takes a break from sketching. Picture: Cebile Ntuli
Sinethemba Tshuma sits with her eyes closed to suppress the discomfort of getting a tattoo. Picture: Cebile Ntuli
A tattoo kit and used gloves are displayed on an old chair that is now used as an ink table
The room where all the inking magic happens. Picture: Cebile Ntuli
Phumza Finiza and the artist inspect the finished tattoo, while her feeding baby looks on. Picture: Cebile Ntuli
Sinethemba and her boyfriend, Sibusiso, had their wedding ring fingers tattooed. Picture: Cebile Ntuli

Different kinds of tattoo designs are stuck all around the wall, making the room feel even smaller.

Kumane starts the process with a sketch on a piece of paper and goes through it with the client until they are both happy to proceed with the process. His prices are compatible with the well-established parlours in Johannesburg and range from R300 for easy designs to R2 000 for the more complicated ones.

“I love his work” says Phumza Finiza, who has just finished getting her shoulder inked while breastfeeding her baby.

Like many who admire Kumane’s work, she couldn’t wait to get tattooed and decided to bring her child along.

Kumani says his vision is to grow his business and bring awareness to the township that tattoos are an art and that people must learn to appreciate them.


What do you think of backroom tattoo studios? Are the artists just as talented as those in formal tattoo parlours?

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