OHMA EXHIBITS: a collection of interactive oral history encounters

I Heard it Before I Ever Saw it: Tattooing and the US Prison System (2022)

By Tamara Santibañez

Tattooing is a practice that intervenes upon one of the most politically contested territories: the body. Interdisciplinary artist Tamara Santibañez examines the power of tattooing as it encounters the prison industrial complex, conducting oral histories of narrators with firsthand experiences with these encounters. From arrest intake and police profiling, to learning to tattoo on the inside, to being forbidden to tattoo by conditions of parole, these narratives illuminate lesser-known aspects of state control and people’s resistance strategies to reclaim autonomy.

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