Rites Of Passage Tattoo Convention And Arts Festival

With Melbourne finally hitting its summer stride festival season is in full swing. And though we Melbournites might shrug our shoulders and say we’ve seen it all before, in blows a festival unlike any other ready to shake and straddle our fair city into a frenzy. Rites of Passage Tattoo Convention & Arts Festival promises three days of nonstop visual and performance art, music and tattoo art that will leave a permanent mark on all who attend - literally.


What makes this festival different from all the others? First, Rites Of Passage combines so many good elements that it’s almost unbelievable they’ve been able to put them all under one roof. The second is the reason. Chatting to festival organiser and co-creator Yani Kawi-Charter, you learn this isn’t all about having a great time but rather raising money for a worthwhile cause. “The idea originated with my partner Claire Reed, who is herself a world class tattoo artist. It all started with the goal of raising money to buy old rainforest and agriculture land for replanting - that was the seed,” explains Kawi-Charter. “I came onboard and together the concept for the festival grew, but our motivation is still the same.” With the support of many of the world’s leading environmental organisations, including: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and The Wilderness Society, the festival stands to raise both funds and awareness for the environment. “The biggest part is to raise the money, creating a fun three days is just the bonus.”


The front and centre attraction at the festival is sure to be the tattoo convention, which is easily understandable if you’ve happened to notice that the tattoo trend has become some kind of a phenomenon. No longer are they reserved for the sailors, the jailbirds or for those with a permanent reminder of a night otherwise easily forgotten - tattoos are the new fashion accessory, and it’s only going to get bigger. “The line between artist and tattooist has steadily grown blurrier. Now a tattoo gun is just as acceptable as a medium for creating art as the paint brush,” says Kawi-Charter.


Tattoo artists worldwide are reaching new heights of creativity with their work, and if you think of the tattoo gun like a paint brush than the human body is the canvas. “Every tattoo artist has a personality to their work. “In the past if you wanted a tattoo, you just walked into a studio and went with whoever was there, these days tattooists are bona fide artists and you can do research to find the one who best suits you and the type of imagery you want on your body. There will always be those tattooists who love big lines, but now there is more intricate detailing and artists that freehand rather than use stencils. This way you’re more likely to get something that is entirely original and not walk out to find someone else with the exact same tattoo as you.”


With both local and international artists appearing at the convention, attendees have a once in a life time opportunity to be tattooed by some of the biggest names in the industry. “If you want to be tattooed on one of the days I recommend booking.” Words of wisdom from Kawi-Charter. “With any tattoo convention it’s wise to check out which artists are coming and make a booking asap. It means you can walk in a little later and still be assured your walking out with a new piece of ink, plus you can actually have a chat to the artist about what you want. Having said that, there are some artists you can only get in with on the day and some who are already fully booked.” So if you know you want to walk away with a fresh tat (or your first!), jump online and book the artist for you. And if ink isn’t for you - watch.


“There are so many phenomenal artists coming from around the world and watching them work is a definitely a rare opportunity. It’s hard to pick out favourites because all the artists attending are great,” says Kawi-Charter. “One that does stand out is Jeff Gogue. He’s already fully booked but if you want to see some amazing tattooing he’s your guy. What he can do with a tattoo gun is just unreal. You need to appreciate that different skin comes in different forms and to see an artist work with all types of canvases, and make consistently beautiful art, is amazing.”


Tattooing isn’t the only attraction at the festival to look forward to. As well as tattoo artists, there is a visual arts exhibition featuring work from local Melbourne artists as well as international. “There is also some crossover between tattooist and visual artists. To name one, Nick Baxter. An international, world class and highly sort after tattooist who will also be exhibiting his visual artwork. It just reiterates the fact that tattooists are artists,” finishes Kawi-Charter. If there is any doubt now, there surely won’t be after the fest.


For those who like to get involved in their art rather than just watching - the festival will also feature a live sketching studio. “It will be set up like a live drawing class and anyone who wants to participate can take advantage of the supplied pencils, pens and paint, as well as our live models from the burlesque and circus scene. We wanted to fill the space with as much colour as possible, make it really vibrant. We’ve also strung together a great line up of bands and musicians - no festival would be complete without music!


Another element a festival couldn’t be without is food, and Rites of Passages has gone all out on catering. “We want to get as much organic produce on the menu as possible, as well as cater for all diets, including vegan and vegetarian. You’re here for three days - we want you to be feed well.”

If that isn’t enough for you, there is always Tiki Town. “This idea has been a fantasy of mine for years. It will be a space filled with Tiki memorabilia, there will be hair dressers and make-up artists for those ladies wanting a pinup look, and we will also be running a pinup photo shoot competition. The initial idea was to do a pageant, but we wanted an idea less common and also less stressful for the girls, so we made it into a photo shoot. Anyone wanting to enter needs only to have their photo taken and at the end of the day the judges will choice the best image from the pics. The winner will feature in Femme Fatale magazine,” explains Kawi-Charter, who pauses for a much needed breath.

“So much to say, and I’ve never done anything like this before. I don’t want to forget anything,” she laughs. “Luckily everything just seems to be falling into place, I guess if you’re doing something for the right reason the universe will provide.”


Rites Of Passage Tattoo Convention And Arts Festival happens at the Royal Exhibition Building between January 28 and 30. Tickets area vailable at ritesofpassagefestival.com/tickets.