Diaspo #77 : Fawez Zahmoul, a tattoo artist and an ambassador for the Maghreb

Born in Tunis in 1984 to a Tunisian father and a Moroccan mother, Fawez Zahmoul is the first tattoo artist to get a tattoo business licence in Tunisia. He is also the founder of the Tunisian National Tattoo School, after having built a career in North Africa and around the world.

Fawez Zahmoul, a Moroccan-Tunisian tattoo artist./Ph. DR
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A few minutes away from downtown Tunis, «Wachem Tattoo-shop» is located in La Marsa, a coastal town in far north-eastern Tunisia. Opened in 2016, this tattoo shop was founded by Fawez Zahmoul, the first tattoo artist to get a tattoo business licence in Tunisia.

Fawez has been operating as a tatto artist in Tunisia for fifteen years, gaining the trust of his customers and clients. «This is the only place in Tunisia that has a licence to get people tattooed, before that we had to do that at our homes or at our clients' homes», Fawez told Yabiladi.

Born in Tunis in 1984, Fawez Zahmoul is now an ambassador for professional tattooing in the Maghreb. He fell in love with the art of making tattoos when he was studying in Morocco. «I studied sound engineering at Studio M Casablanca, working with a tattoo artist who introduced me to this world and it is there that I realized that tattooing was all I wanted to do».

Back to the roots with calligraphy

Passionate about tattooing, Fawez discovered that the art was one of his parents' favorite activities. «My father, who used to work in the port in Tunis, was a huge calligraphy fan», he said, recalling : «growing up I watched my father devoting a lot of time to that, and it is only after I discovered tattooing that I realized that calligraphy was one of his favorite pastimes».

Thus, Fawez Zahmoul became a tattoo artist, developing his own style with precise drawings, geometric shapes and complex features.

He then toured the world to collaborate with other professional tattoo artists, visiting France, Hong-Kong and several other countries. Ten years later, the Tunisian-Moroccan artist decided to create his own brand, highlighting a very personal aspect.

Wachem Tattoo-shop is a real concept-store, located in a very specific area in La Marsa. This work however would not have borne fruit so fast without the commitment of Fawez Zahmoul, who prefers to be discrete with his work. In 2014, Fawez Zahmoul founded the National Union for Tunisian Tattoo artists. He is president of the union, which represents tattoo professionals in the country.

«One of the decisive achievements this union has made is to change the national legislation, which now licenses tattoo artists to create their own brands. Without this, Wachem Tattoo-shop would never have been possible».

Fawez Zahmoul

A rough road

Fawez's journey, however, was fraught with difficulties. Public opinions were not always open to this kind of art. «Tattooing has long been perceived as transgressive, but many people forget about the fact that it has been part of our African and North African culture for years», he proudly said.

«With globalization, it became more common, even though some people are motivated by the fashion effect more than by the philosophy of tattooing, it has been democratized», Fawez explains.

Negatively seen by some people and appreciated by others, tattooing was at the heart of some violent campaigns that targeted Fawez. The latter, and after the opening of his shop, was violently beaten in May 2016 by a group of «religious» people who had accused him of «defending Freemasonry».

«It happened to me once, but now people are more open and they understand that I had nothing to do with what some people claimed», he said.

A school of tattooing

Being an avid artworks and joint projects collectioner, Fawez's shop remains open for local and international tattoo artists, whom he often invites as guests to learn from and exchange know-how, new techniques and styles.

Fawez Zahmoul also had the idea of openning a national tattoo school in Tunis, to accompany tattoo lovers wishing to debut a career in this professional world, combining art, medical concepts and tattooing techniques. «I discover through this the job of a teacher, since I teach in my school», he proudly said , expressing his wish to develop the establishment and to open a shop in Morocco.

Giving a humane dimension to his work, Fawez Zahmoul also made the headlines after proposing, last August, to remove the tattoos on Khadija O.'s body, a 17-year-old girl who was allegedly kidnapped, raped, tortured and forcibly tattooed in the Beni Mellal region.

«I am not the only one behind this initiative; I volunteered to reach the girl, but we are a group of friends and each one of us contributed to help her», explains the tattoo artist.

«We were able to contact her and her relatives directly, we had the opportunity to sort her travel documentation ahead of the trip and raise the money needed, but since the trial is underway, Khadija cannot leave Beni Mellal for the moment. However, everything is ready to welcome her and start her tattoo removal sessions as soon as she can get here».

Fawez Zahmoul

Currently, Fawez is in France for several tattoo competitions. He also represents the Kingdom at the second edition of the Axone de Montbéliard, held in France on February the 2nd and 3rd, where he is part of the jury.

Launched in 2018, the event is thought of as a true tattoo fair, gathering more than 8,000 people and more than 150 tattoo artists.

Fawez Zahmoul will also attend the first edition of the Tattoo Winter Session in Les Gets, from February 4 to 10, where he will represent Morocco, after conventions in Cairo (Egypt), the Guadeloupe islands, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland.

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