Singapore’s first pioneer tattoo artist with a reputation and fame that spanned across the oceans. Johnny Two-Thumb was his trade name given by British soldiers who were his clients and his real name wasMr. Indra Bahadur s/o Ram Sing.
After the war, he opened a tattoo shop at Sule Pagoda in Rangoon the capital of Burma. Not very long after, he left for Singapore which was still under British rule where the British Far East Command was stationed. Sailors of the Royal Navy and tattoos always went hand in hand and the Naval Base in Sembawang made sure that customers always kept Johnny Two Thumb very busy. In the Seventies, the Vietnam war made sure a steady stream of U.S. Marines and sailors of the U.S.Seventh Fleet on R&R waited patiently in line at New Lucky Store, Bras Basah Road from where Johnny Two-Thumb operated from.
By the Eighties, Johnny Two-Thumb had already become famous and his fame spanned across many continents mostly carried on the lips of countless sailors from numerous navies of many nations that call upon Singapore, not forgetting oil riggers and drillers.
Anyone with a keen eye in discerning various styles of art work and those well versed in appreciating the subtle nuances of various great masters will be awed by the sheer simplicity of Johnny Two-Thumb’s work. His style in employing the minimum to bring out the maximum was the hallmark of his works. Shadings were used sparingly and was very cleverly deployed in incorporating the blank spaces within to create a sense of completeness as a whole. Each of his work became unique classics never ever replicated successfully by anyone.
Johnny Two-Thumb passed away in August 1988 and his two sons, Singha (Singha Tat) and Harka (Richard Tat) continued tattooing and brought the tattoo art to new heights and pushed new frontiers. This brought tattooing to the level of social acceptance and became very
popular among many who would have shunned it in an earlier era.
Today, Richard Tat the second generation of Johnny Two Thumb continues the trade in Body Decor Tattoo & Piercing at The Singapore Shopping Centre with his protege Aaron Tay, and Ms Sumithra Debi ( Sutattoo) the third generation of Johnny Two Thumb operates from Exotic Tattoo at Far East Plaza.
All Images Courtesy of Body Decor Tattoo & Piercing!