Friday, August 19, 2011


Mariposa is the Spanish term for butterfly. This is the year of the butterfly, according to many women I've made community with recently, and also my own sister-in-law. For many, it's a year of transition and change. However the image of the butterfly is so much more than just a transition. It's a transformation or a positive change into something so beautiful and something so free it can take flight. The year of the butterfly has us emerging with a new path, a new restored outlook, and a commitment to our creative selves.

I just realized that my Mariposa turned 5 years old this month. In August 2006, I got my first (and only) tattoo. Yes, Zahida has a tattoo. Most people know this as it's sometimes visible, given that it resides on my left shoulder blade. But I often get surprised at reactions from those who see it for the first time and say things along the lines of, "YOU have a tattoo?" or, "Wow! I never thought YOU would have one." My response is always along the lines of, "Really? Why? What is so awe-inspiring about a tattoo?" Sure there is an element of bad-ass to having a tattoo. You know, the permanence of it, and the fact that one has to withstand substantial pain to attain one. But really, when you think of it, it's so much more than that.

My tattoo was designed by me. It wasn't an act of teenaged rebellion but an intentional artistic decision I mulled over for months to be sure I was ready for the lifetime commitment. It's a piece of art designed by me, painted on by another artist who wielded the needle. It is a painted canvas that will have a place to be on display (or tucked under a sweater) for as long as I'm around. And when I explain to people this very fact and what the butterfly symbolizes, then they get it. I'm an artist and this is a part of my artistic expression. It's a very personal piece of art so it makes sense to carry it everywhere I go.

My Mariposa is 5 years old. I got it soon after my experiences in Colombia that made a significant impact on my perspective on the world. The butterfly is a symbol for positive social change, and a symbol used by la Fundacion Cultural Rayuela to portray a vision for the future - a future without rights violations against youth. The colours of my mariposa are red, yellow and blue: the colours of the Colombian flag. It will remain a reminder of my time in Colombia and how my experience changed me. It will also serve as a symbol for my hopes, dreams, and passion for positive social change.

And now as my mariposa celebrates its 5th year of existance, it's taking on additional meaning. It's a symbol of transition and change in my life, both in my career and in my commitment to health and fitness. And the colours of red, yellow, and blue are the primary colours - the building block paint colours that I need to express myself as a visual artist. How perfect is that!

Happy Birthday Mariposa! Here's a picture of me moments after the mariposa's completion.

1 comment:

Taslim Jaffer said...

I loved reading about the thought behind your beautiful tattoo- thanks for sharing. I can't think of a more fascinating creature to have rest forever on one's shoulder!