Essi Tesfom, in collaboration with Tattoodo and Skin Stories, speaks on the intensely beautiful connection between phases of life and tattoo collecting. Essi goes in depth behind his impetus to collect artwork in this particular way. A glance at his internal world and physical skin purely shows the link between expression and experience as well as how tattoos are both literal and symbolic memorials for the past.
Tell us a bit about your background. Who you are, what you do, and what you love.
My roots lie in the horn of Africa, Eritrea to be precise, off of the Tigrinya Tribe. I was born in London, grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, did my A-levels in Norway, moved to the Netherlands, and ended up fulfilling my academic degree in Germany. The diverse cultures I was privileged enough to have had first-hand experience upon, enabled me to observe how rich and vast our pool of knowledge actually is. As one can imagine, the absorption of information can be overwhelming but regardless of all the occasions taking place outside my consciousness, they all led me towards exploring the vast universe within me. Over the past years, I found myself investigating my thoughts, behavior, and the question of what makes me the individual that I am today. I believe, ESSI, is the best answer I can come up with when asked whom I believe to be because who I am, is every facet my life has to offer and all that is carried by the name given to me by my life guardians. What I do? Constantly evolve into the human I visualize to become by waking up every morning, showing gratitude to be able to live another day and give that day the justice it deserves. What I love? The fact that I am capable of understanding that we have a limited timeframe in this lifetime and that every pain, darkest hour, disappointment, failure, setback are all a way of the universe conversing that the sun will rise and this phase shall pass as well.
You talked a bit in the video about how your tattoos are each an image from a period of your life so how have your tattoos evolved over time? What are some of your favorite pieces and what do they make you think of?
As mentioned earlier, I was exposed to various cultures, circles, and phases in life which contributed to building up my character. I’m not saying that I’ve always been a saint, I’ve had my rebel days and those days are also part of my journey but my skeletons in the closet can be reflected on my tattoos. Some carry their memories on photo albums, I carry mine on my skin. My tattoos have always been symbolic to me, and are still a constant reminder of the individual I am proud to be with all my flaws and riches. I adore every single tattoo, I never believed in the idea of getting bored off of a tattoo. Every tattoo is a gateway to a time in my life when I was in a different mindset and I love that ESSI as much as I love the ESSI today. Favoring one tattoo over another is like neglecting a younger version of me, so it’s impossible to pick one piece and express it in a way that makes it stand out. All my tattoos are my favorite pieces because they remind me of who I am today and excite me to know that my journey is not over yet.
You mentioned that dancing, running, and tattoos all involve physical pain that reminds you that you’re alive. Can you describe a bit more about this? Why do you think people resonate with that philosophy?
A DJ set, a running route, and a tattoo session have 3 things in common: The opening, the high, the closing. These are occasions when I feel isolated from society, my consciousness departs from reality and allows me access to the pool of infinite thoughts within me. The sound of frequencies on the dance floor, footsteps pounding on concrete floors, the buzzing of the tattoo needle, aid in guiding my awareness towards these foreign realms. Pain gave me an understanding of how we choose to overcome our resistance. Only living organisms are capable of experiencing pain, in other words, it’s a constant reminder that we are alive. Pain is inevitable but your determination is what derives your individuality. I’ve learned that pain is mostly experienced right before change. I can’t speak for others when I say this, but like everything in life I have experienced, if you’re going through a tough and painful time, the outcome has always been a blessing.
Tattoos are more popular than ever. What advice do you have for people who are getting their first tattoo and still want to be authentic to themselves?
The only advice I can give anybody getting their first tattoo is that your reason for getting a tattoo should not justify any other individuals’ opinion. The tattoo on your skin is yours and only yours to bear. Tattoos are more than just having ink on skin, is what I believe. Of course, the outcome is somewhat important, but primarily, it’s about the memory of emotions and mindset one was going through during that time in life. Regardless of how the tattoo turns out, the whole idea behind getting a tattoo is a decision based on various factors and those factors are life lessons that reflect on that very tattoo. The bond you have with the tattoo artist, the moments you share with your tattoo artist throughout the session. Tattoos are simply put, scars of the phases in life, of a life that has an end at some point. Tattoos are reminders of times in life that built up the individual you are today, the dark times as well as the marvelous times, aesthetics is rather a bonus to me. See tattoos as tokens of important events in your timeline. Tattoos build character, so whatever it is you decide on getting, it for sure will be unique to your very own existence.
Do you have any hopes, plans, goals, or dreams for the future that you’d like to share?
I rather have faith in the universe and its miraculous ways of shifting reality in our daily lives. I know for a fact that the future lies in your thoughts and approaches of today, and I leave the unknown to the unknown but am excited to see what the future holds and how it unfolds because once you understand that the only thing that matters is the moment you are actually living, the present, the here, and the now, you start experiencing reality through a different lens and your future becomes your present, time becomes infinite, and you find yourself living in a world you never knew existed. Be good, do good, spread love, keep evolving, exploring, sharing, and learning, and believe me when I say this, you will rather get a high off of every minute you get to experience life at the moment.