Tattooing for a cause is big in the US and tattoo artists all over the country take part in events where 100% of the cost of each tattoo is donated to a chosen cause or charity.

Whilst it may be popular in the US, it is a very new concept in Turkey.

Tattooing for a cause

On Tuesday 29th October 2019, Republic Day in Turkey, local world-record holding tattoo artist, Kaya İlker Ahmet, set out to break another world record and raise money for the TEMA foundation, a non-governmental organization for reforestation and the protection of natural habitats in Turkey.

Kaya, world record for tattooing whilst paragliding

Kaya aimed to beat the world record for the most tattoos done in 24 hours – a record set in the US by Kat Von D: 400 tattoos in 24 hours!

His plan was to commemorate Republic Day by tattooing the signature of Atatürk on more than 400 people between midnight on Monday 28th and midnight on 29th October only. The only requirement was to make a donation of 10TL per person via SMS to TEMA before going along to Kaya’s tattoo studio on Barış Mancero Blv for the tattoo.

Kaya İlker Ahmet -tattooing for a cause
Kaya tattooing one of 204 signatures. Photo by Erkan Ilık

Why TEMA?

Over the summer, many hectares of forest have been destroyed by wild fires. Three big fires in Bodrum, Izmir and Göcek left huge areas that need reforestation. TEMA work alongside the General Directory of Forestry in Turkey and are supporting government plans to make sure these areas are replanted. As an NGO, they rely heavily on donations to enable them to continue with the work they do.

Kaya joined forces with friend and colleague, Ateş Tor who owns a tattoo studio in Bodrum. Ateş was the first tattoo artist in Turkey to tattoo for a cause. His campaign, also for TEMA and reforestation of the area destroyed by fire in Bodrum, started on 30 August and, to date he has had 2000 signatures. The first 700 signatures launching the campaign were tattooed by Ateş and his four assistants in 48 hours. The campaign in Bodrum is ongoing.

Kaya İlker Ahmet -tattooing for a cause
Kaya İlker Ahmet (right) with Ateş Tor (centre) and Arnvut Mert (left)

Bringing the campaign to Fethiye allowed Kaya to both raise money to help replant the destroyed areas in Muğla, as well as go for the world record.

The event

Kaya’s studio was busy all day with people going along to get their tattoos and the event was well supported by people who went along to enjoy the atmosphere.

Kaya İlker Ahmet -tattooing for a cause
Kaya Tattoo and Airbrush – Barış Mancero Blv.
Kaya İlker Ahmet -tattooing for a cause
Is that a smile or a grimace? Photo by Erkan Ilık
Kaya İlker Ahmet -tattooing for a cause
Smiling through the pain. Photo by Erkan Ilık
Kaya İlker Ahmet -tattooing for a cause
Most had the tattoo on their arm but some had other ideas.
Kaya İlker Ahmet -tattooing for a cause
All done.

Fethiye Mayor Alim Karaca also went along during the early evening to show his support, although he didn’t get a tattoo.

Kaya İlker Ahmet -tattooing for a cause
Fethiye Mayor Alim Karaca went along to show his support. Photo by Aycan Inaluk
Kaya İlker Ahmet -tattooing for a cause
Fethiye Mayor Alim Karaca went along to show his support. Photo by Erkan Ilık

Did he break the record?

Kaya didn’t manage to break the world record. He tattooed 204 signatures across the 24 hours, 9 were foreign residents and for 67 people, some of whom were over 60 years old, it was their first tattoo. Many people made an SMS donation without having the tattoo.

TEMA received a total 1,740 SMS messages raising 17,400 TL. An impressive achievement and for a great cause.

Is Kaya disappointed not to have broken the record? Not one bit. He told us “There’s always another record to make or beat”.

When asking both Kaya and Ateş why they tattoo for a cause, they said “We want to change the view people have of tattoo studios. Tattoo artists are working to make the world a better place. Planting new trees will make sure our forests continue to live on, as does the signature of Atatürk to the Turkish people”

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