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From Bali to Berlin: The art of putting ink to skin

Katrin Figge

The Jakarta Post

Berlin, Germany  /  Fri, September 18, 2020  /  05:01 pm
From Bali to Berlin: The art of putting ink to skin

Take your pick: Tattoo artist Bhoman F. Jamhari has years of experience in all styles of tattooing, but specializes in Polynesian, Maori and traditional Indonesian motifs. (Courtesy of

Since he opened Kayon Tattoo Art Studio in 2014, Bhoman F. Jamhari made sure to get to know his neighbors.

“Hospitality is everything,” he said while enjoying a cup of coffee and engaging in friendly chitchat with the people passing by his tattoo studio in Berlin-Kreuzberg, an area of the city well known for its diverse cultural life.

“I think at least one person in every building on this street has been tattooed by me,” he laughs. “It’s important to be part of the community. When we organize get-togethers at Kayon, they are open to anyone.”

Bhoman applies the same welcoming attitude to the artists who work in his tattoo studio: instead of looking for fame and glory for himself, he envisions Kayon as a place where artists can learn and inspire one another.

After all, he explains, if it had not been for the support and help of others in his life, he would not be where he is today.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic that has brought life to a standstill – not only in Berlin, but all over the world – Bhoman said the most important thing was to help flattening the curve. He closed his studio to minimize the risk but now, as the situation improves, it is back in business.

Around the world: Bhoman F. Jamhari moved from Bali to Berlin almost 15 years ago and opened his own tattoo studio in 2014.Around the world: Bhoman F. Jamhari moved from Bali to Berlin almost 15 years ago and opened his own tattoo studio in 2014. (Courtesy of Katrin Figge/-)

Bhoman’s own life story is part adventure, part romance novel.

Born in Jakarta in 1978, he developed a strong passion for painting and drawing early on. However, he quickly realized that Indonesia’s capital was not the city he wanted to live in.

As a budding artist, he wanted to try his luck in Bali. After a detour to Yogyakarta, where he stayed for a couple of months, he finally arrived in Denpasar in 1998.

“It was very hard to survive at the beginning,” he recalls. “I basically had nothing but the clothes on my back and Rp 75,000 (US$5.13) in my pocket.”

Despite his initial struggle, Bhoman found a way to make it work. He earned money by making temporary tattoos and dedicated more time to painting again.

At a surf shop owned by his friend, Bhoman was able to set up shop and sell his works, while continuing his temporary tattoo business on the side. Gradually, he settled into life in Bali and established himself in the local art scene – so much so that he opened his art shop named Sacred Spirit Fine Art Gallery.

In the meantime, he had also fallen in love with a German wedding planner working in Bali. He admits with a smile that it wasn’t always smooth sailing, but in every relationship, one must be willing to compromise.

“We had to overcome some difficulties,” Bhoman says. “We had different notions about how our future life should look like. I was content with continuing painting, selling my works here and there, and living from one day to the next without making long-term plans for the future. She was the complete opposite. I realized after a while that she was right, and since I was in love and wanted the relationship to work out, I was willing to change.”

Everything seemed to be going in the right direction. That is why the Bali bombings in 2002, which claimed 202 lives, hit him hard. The tourism industry on the island suffered immensely and was just on the road to recovery when suicide bombers carried out another attack in 2005, killing 23 people.

With their financial situation in limbo, Bhoman’s girlfriend – now his wife – decided to go back to Germany.

“It was not easy for me to pack my bags and follow her to a completely foreign country,” he says. “I didn’t speak the language, and I was quite afraid of the cold weather during wintertime. But I still took the plunge and arrived here in 2006.”

Bhoman immediately enrolled in German language classes and completed an apprenticeship in Berlin in stage design and as a scene painter for theaters – something he thoroughly enjoyed because he could use and further hone his skills as a painter. It was not until 2007 that he rediscovered his passion for tattooing.

“At a tattoo convention here in Berlin, I reconnected with an old friend from Bali, a tattoo artist, who had since relocated to Frankfurt,” he recalls. Shortly afterward, Bhoman began to travel to Frankfurt on a regular basis, mostly on the weekends, to help out his friend and perfect his own skills as a tattoo artist.

In 2014, Bhoman was confident enough to open his own tattoo studio, Kayon Tattoo Atelier. With a growing clientele from all around the country – he even counts football players like Gotoku Sakai and Pierre-Michel Lasogga among his customers – it was the logical next step.

As a tattoo artist, Bhoman has begun to include traditional Indonesian designs in his repertoire, such as batik motifs, in recent years. That way, he says, he stays connected to his home country.

“I love being part of other people’s life through my art,” he says.

Once Kayon Tattoo Atelier was up and running, Bhoman welcomed other tattoo artists to join him as well. Currently, he shares his space with Jerin from Indonesia, Sam from Germany and Elina Swan from Latvia.

“Helping young tattoo artists to grow is something that is important to me,” he explains. “It also gives me more flexibility, and I can spend time with my children. I can truly say that I am very happy right now.” (ste)

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