Amsterdam Tattoo Convention 2008

Published: 01 August, 2008 - Featured in Skin Deep 163, August, 2008

Known as Europe’s Northern Venice with its 90 islands, 160 canals and 1,281 bridges and practically the entire city is below sea level (including the canals); the buildings there are constructed upon specialised stilts. Renowned for its tolerance and diversity, Amsterdam was founded in the 13th century AD and was originally a fishing village – its name comes from the Dutch word for ‘dam’ across the river Amstel.

The Amsterdam Tattoo Convention 2008 took place between 20th May and 1st June in a new, revised location: Borchland, near the Amsterdam arena soccer stadium. Each year the convention exhibits tattoo art and culture from around the globe and 2008’s show saw more than 180 artists from more than 30 countries were gathered this year.

The first Amsterdam convention took place in 1981 at a time when conventions were not quite as prolific as they are today. The convention stopped for a few years until 2004 when Nico decided to manage the event, and the Amsterdam show was reborn.

This year the convention’s focus was upon Tiki culture from the Pacific. There was art, traditional dance and of course, traditional tattooing from the region. Aside from the noted Polynesian artists, there were world famous artists working in all styles of tattooing.

Vatea was one of the 30 Polynesian tattooists invited to the convention and created many tattoos using traditional methods. His father was born on the Marquesas Islands and his mother was of Raiatea origin. He was born in Tahiti where at the age of 13 he began to tattoo his school friends with needles that he borrowed from his mother. He served his time with Chime, a master who was also present at the convention and played a great part in introducing Polynesian tattoos to Europe and North America. Vatea moved to Moorea to open a shop with Chime and 4 years later opened another in Toulon, France. The tattoos that Vatea wears are rich in the symbolic history of his home and he has been tattooed by some of the finest Polynesian artists around. The traditional tattoo is an ancient art that utilises a technique that was reserved only for the bravest. At the time, it was said that the tattooist could pass on a little of his ‘Mana’ (Gift or power) through the tattoo. In Vatea’s shop there is a special place reserved for the tatua maohi, where the practice remains still very spiritual.


With its traditional connections to religious practices, the Polynesian dance hands down legend and history through songs accompanied by music. The western world first caught a glimpse of these practices when explorers returned from Tahiti with illustrations of these colourful and decorated people. These wonderful rituals were almost lost forever when missionaries and the church became involved and tried to rid the people of their rich cultural heritage. The missionaries considered the dance to be primitive and pagan, along with their partial nudity and rudimentary clothing. However, the dance continued to be practised in secret and this tradition was passed on behind closed doors until certain members helped revive many elements of the culture, including the art of tattooing.


A big attraction of the lounge was the famous Lucky Diamond Rich. He joined the circus at the ripe age of 8 years old, performing and training for 10 years, and soon Lucky became the youngest, most highly-skilled circus performer in the southern hemisphere. Travelling the world performing his one-man circus show enabled him to collect tattoos from international tattoo artists and thus enriching the show and his character, becoming the performance artist you see today.

Lucky is living his dream, doing what he loves and enriching other people’s lives through his performances and tattooing worldwide. With over 1400 hours of tattooing recorded over his entire body he’s The Guinness World Record Holder for the Most Tattooed Person in the World. Lucky says,” If you look at it, it’s only 58 days, which is a little under 2 months in total! And if you figure that I have been alive for 441 months, 2 months out of that too, living a life beyond my wildest dreams is a small price to pay! Who can say they have a piece from The Most Tattooed Person in the World?” Many can, as Lucky has been tattooing and performing at most of the tattoo conventions worldwide. Lucky would like to thank the Amsterdam Tattoo Convention for inviting him for the second time, and he feels privileged to be a part of this International Event.

It was an enormous success again this year with many visitors coming to the Amsterdam convention to meet some of the great names in tattooing. The closing ceremony of the Amsterdam Tattoo Convention 2008 featured a warrior-dance, a unique exchange between three cultures: Tahitian, Maori and Moluccan. For more information see


Text and Photography: Daniel Pissondes


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