Cleverson

I was born in Brazil and immigrated to Portugal when I was 22 years old. After that, I moved to Spain and then to the Netherlands. I have been living in the Netherlands for 16 years now. I lived also in Sweden for one winter, but it’s too cold there.

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I got my first tattoo when I was fourteen years old. A friend of mine bought his own machine, so we started tattooing and he tattooed me and another friend at the same day. After few days, my father saw the tattoo. We had a fight, and in the end he kicked me out of the house. I needed to go somewhere else, so I lived with my friends and never went back home again. From there on, I started to get more and more tattoos because I was independent now. And of course because I love tattoos. My life story is on my skin.  I’m almost full, 80% or 90% of my body is full of tattoos.

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In Brazil I lived in favelas, the slums of Brazil. The guys there have their own rules. If you see some things you shouldn’t see, you have to be quiet about it. Anything you see, you have to keep it to yourself. Lots of people there are normal people who just happen to be poor, so they live there because it’s cheap. If you do nothing, nothing happens. If you make something wrong, they can kill you.

Monkeys

They have all the different ways to kill and torture. Sometimes they cut off your leg or head, sometimes they cut off your tongue or hand. It depends on what you do. If you see someone without a hand, it’s because he stole something. They cut off your head or tongue because you talked to police, this kind of stuff. They put the body parts somewhere where people can see it.

I did my shin/calf tattoo in Indonesia when I was visiting in Bali. I met this one cool guy there and he was doing tattoos with a bamboo stick. The tattoo took like 13 hours in one session. For all the time, when I put my foot down it was like an elephant foot covered with blood, so I needed to keep my foot up most of the time. But yeah, in the end, it was good!

I have my nose tattooed, too. I tattooed it in Thailand during my first real backpacking trip. Before that I had traveled a lot, but only in Europe with a band that I used to play in. I went to Asia for my first backpacking adventure in 2005 and visited Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia for the first time. I met this one guy there, and since we shared a really good connection, I decided to get my nose tattooed by him. It took like three or four meetings because he really didn’t want to tattoo my nose at first. Lots of people go crazy like, heyy, I want a tattoo here (on my face) but most of the tattooers don’t want to tattoo the face. But after three times I visited there and convinced him that I’m sure about it, he finally did it. And I really like it, it’s like my souvenir from my first real backpacking trip.

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One tattoo on my belly is the Mexican Rain God. A friend of mine from Mexico drew it himself and tattooed it for me.

On the middle of the Cleverson chest, you can see his Expansion tattoo symbolizing growth. He is pointing the God of Rain tattoo

I never get a tattoo from someone I don’t really know. I like to have a connection with somebody and prefer to meet people in person. If I really like them, if I have a nice connection, okay, I ask about the price. And of course, most of the time, if I make a nice connection, people always make good price, too, haha!

It’s quite funny by the way, this leg that I have this skull on. The tattooist is a friend of mine, and I paid him a ticket to come from Brazil to Amsterdam to tattoo me. I met him in southern Brazil at the beach and he mentioned he is a tattoo artist. We had so good connection we were like brothers. I said I want you to come to Amsterdam, so I paid his ticket and he flew to Amsterdam. It was supposed to be just one month, but he stayed almost three months in my house. He tattooed all this, half a leg all the way to my ass and everything. We have stayed really good friends. After I went back to Brazil, I was staying in his house and I met all of his family.

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The hand tattoo is like a tribal, it symbolizes family and freedom. A friend of mine did this. He was living on some islands between New Zealand and Australia with Polynesians and he learned the meaning of the tattoos there. He did these tattoos for me in Amsterdam, and in the end, he liked the tattoos so much that he asked if he could make the same tattoos for himself to his hand, too!

Most people judge me by my looks and think I’m a bad person just because how I look. I’m actually vegetarian, I don’t use drugs or alcohol or smoke. I do sports five times a week when I’m home in Amsterdam. People actually get really surprised when they hear this!

Photos: Pinja
Interview: Cleverson