Toronto tattoo artist inks acid attack victims in India
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, January 30, 2018 12:48PM EST
Warning: This story contains graphic images that may disturb some viewers.
A Toronto cosmetic tattoo artist is using her talent with ink to change lives as far away as India.
Amber Gotzmeister has just returned home to Canada after spending a month in the cities of Jaipur, Ujjain, and Indore helping victims of acid attacks and those who suffer from vitiligo, a disease that causes a loss of pigment or white patches on the skin.
Working with the non-governmental organization (NGO) The India Project, Gotzmeister had the opportunity to help conceal scars and loss of pigmentation with her tattoos on 65 people in India. Her goal is to provide 100 free facial reconstruction tattoos.
In the past few years, India has seen a steady increase in the number of acid attacks with more than 500 incidents reported in 2015, according to statistics from the Acid Survivors Foundation India.
The majority of victims are women who can be targeted for various reasons, for instance, if their dowry isn’t enough, if they don’t bear a son or if they refuse sexual advances. The victims of acid attacks often face stigma if they’re disfigured from their families and communities.
Indians suffering from vitiligo also experience stigma in society because the disease is often mistaken for leprosy.
“When someone is left burnt or damaged physically in some way, unfortunately, their life is sort of pushed down the bottom of the barrel, in a sense, because their value isn’t as high anymore,” Gotzmeister explained to CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.
To ease the stigma, Gotzmeister tattoos the skin with natural pigments to mask the scars left from an acid attack or lack of pigment in those with vitiligo.
“So in scar tissue, when there is a situation of lack of pigment, white spots, I’m able to blend those white spots to match the rest of their skin colour so it’s not quite as visible,” she explained. “The scars are still there but they can walk through life a little bit more confidently.”
Gotzmeister said the tattoos are usually not very painful for the recipients because she uses a local, topical anesthetic and because they often have some nerve damage, which makes the skin less tender.
After the procedure, the tattoos appear darker than the skin for approximately four to six weeks while the skin heals. Eventually, the darker pigment fades and blends in to match the skin, she said.
Gotzmeister plans to return to India in 2019 to resume her work with The India Project. She’s currently raising funds for the trip on GoFundMe.