Entertainment Arts Malaysian minister criticises half-naked tattoo show at Kuala Lumpur tattoo expo

Malaysian minister criticises half-naked tattoo show at Kuala Lumpur tattoo expo

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Pictures of the event showed heavily-tattooed participants and models who were semi-nude to nearly nude resulting in a public outcry by some quarters

The Malaysian Minister of Tourism, Art and Culture, Mohammadin bin Haji Ketapi, has criticised the recent Tattoo Malaysian Expo 2019, calling the now-viral, half-naked tattoo photos of men and women “obscene”. He has also since ordered an investigation into the event, which took place in Kuala Lumpur from November 29 to December 2, 2019.

The naked tattoo scene at Tattoo Malaysia Expo 2019, a convention to celebrate the art of tattooing, drew participants from some 35 countries to Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The sight of half-naked tattoo-bedecked individuals sparked a wave of controversy and criticism.

The exhibition featured some of the world’s finest renowned artists of traditional tattooing methods, from countries such as (Borneo) Malaysia, Thailand, Mexico, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand and the Philippines. Modern machine-style tattooing will also be showcased by artists from around the world.

The event was the first international and biggest tattoo expo that Malaysia has ever hosted.

Criticism by the government

The international expo has been happening every year since 2015, but this year was the first time that the hosting government openly criticised the show, announcing that they were planning “firm action” against the organisers.

Malaysian Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Mohammadin Ketapi said the show was “obscene” and “not Malaysian culture…the majority of Malaysians are Muslim”.


Ketapi declared the half-naked tattoo show as “obscene” and “not Malaysian culture…the majority of Malaysians are Muslim”. He noted that while a permit was issued for the event, it did not permit any form of nudity.

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“It is impossible for the ministry to approve of any programme that contains obscenity such as this,” Ketapi said in a statement.

At the expo, female and models were walking around or standing on the stage topless or barely clothed to show off their tattoos, and many people were getting tattooed in similar states of undress.

Pictures of the event showed heavily-tattooed participants and models semi-nude to nearly nude. While Malaysian media blurred some of the photos, they still managed to go viral and circulated online.

Photo: A nearly-naked model at the tattoo expo/YouTube screen grab

Photo: Showing tattoos off on stage at the tattoo expo/YouTube screen grab

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The Malaysian government has launched an investigation into the event. Ketapi said that they are currently waiting for the full investigation report and “will not hesitate to take legal action if they are found to have been in violation of set conditions”.

With around 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people being Muslim, it seems as though the country is going in the direction of religious conservatism. The outcry over the naked tattoo is seen as part of this trend.

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People’s reactions

Reactions to the expo and the naked tattoos were mixed. Some people agreed strongly with Ketapi and posted their opinions on social media, criticising the expo for its display of naked tattoos.

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“Pay attention to local norms and culture. Totally inappropriate exhibition to public. Very insensitive, it would have been somehow palatable if this is a closed session, somewhere private venue, among certain patrons. Definitely not for all,” someone wrote on the expo’s Facebook page.

“Not a malaysian culture. Totally disgrace Malaysia,” posted another.

“Be More Sensitive About Malaysian Culture, NUDITY Isn’t Normal Here!” admonished one social media user.

However, others were more open-minded and defended the expo and the artistry of the naked tattoos on display.

“I wish it was held more often,” said one person. “It’s a culture many others find significance in, regardless of what the overly sensitive community thinks. This is a multi-cultural country after all, and participants/artists deserve an equal amount of respect from our society. Don’t be bitter towards others’ beliefs.”

“Great start, hopefully next will be bigger if you do it as international event,” wrote another.

“Awesome people, great environment and friendly vibe tattoo expo…” posted someone.

The apology
On Tuesday (Dec 3), the organisers of the expo posted this press release apology on their official Facebook page, acknowledging the controversy over the naked tattoos and promising to avoid such incidents in the future.

PRESS RELEASE3 December 2019[FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE] On behalf of the organising committee of Tattoo Malaysia Expo…

Posted by Tattoo Malaysia Expo on Monday, 2 December 2019

Here is an excerpt of the official apology:

“On behalf of the organising committee of Tattoo Malaysia Expo 2019, Blackout Trading, we would like to sincerely apologise for the shortfall that had happened during the recent Tattoo Malaysia Expo 2019 that was held on 29 November 2019 – 1 December 2019 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

“The semi-nude incident during the competition portion of the event was truly unintentional and we sincerely take full responsibility and we assure you that we are taking the necessary steps to prevent it from happening in the future.

“We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to all of the People of Malaysia who have been affected by the recently viral-ed posts regarding the event…We take full responsibility and accountability for the inconvenience caused. We vow to only improve in the coming future,” wrote the organisers.

Investigations by the Malaysian government into the naked tattoo incident are still ongoing. /TISG,

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