Human Rights Tattoo

I’m not a person who takes big life decisions impulsively but when I got my first tattoo (back in 2013), I had thought about it for exactly a week beforehand. It started with a friend of mine, telling me about this art project where they were aiming to tattoo all the letters of the universal declaration of human rights on everyone who wanted in. A letter per person. Altogether we would form the declaration.

A beautiful idea, I thought. I started doing some research about the project that was appropriately called: Human rights tattoo. I discovered that the man who came up with the idea (Sander van Bussel) had devoted the project to fellow artist Steven Nygah, who was killed in Nairobi. This motivated him to set up this massive tattooing project, bringing awareness to the declaration and the basic human rights stated in it. I have always felt this to be an important issue. Too many people don’t know about their basic human rights. Even more people don’t know about the declaration. What better way to spread awareness than tattooing people and letting them spread the message themselves. When someone walks around with a single letter tattooed on them, there are bound to be some people who inquire after its meaning.

The whole thing struck me as amazing. After some research about the declaration itself, I told my friend I’d come with her to the tattoo spot. They tattoo in a different city/country every time. We got ours at the Amnesty house in Amsterdam. We heard there would be a queue, so I made sure I was there early (sitting outside like one of “those” people hehe). We didn’t actually get to pick the letter itself, we just got a card with our letter on it. Once inside, there was the opportunity to look into different styles that you could show to the tattoo artist. I chose the typewriter-ish one, because of its simplicity and timelessness.


I have not regretted this tattoo for one second. It reminds me of the rights some people don’t have. It encourages me to think about my own rights. It makes me feel part of something bigger than myself. I even got about 2 seconds of fame when my cousin told me she saw me talk about it on a national morning show (that explained why there was a man with a camera trying to talk to me while another man was stabbing my foot with a needle). I like being able to tell people about a UN declaration that is important to me. Bonus fact: the declaration was established on 10 december 1948, which is now the international day of human rights and more importantly my birthday!! If that isn’t meant to be, I don’t know what is.


Check out their site for an overview of all the tattoos done so far and the motivations of the participants:


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