Body Paint

Artwork of a black-and-white girl holding a red helium balloon shaped like a heart
Girl with a red balloon. (Inspired by Banksy). Body painting artist & photo:
Riina Laine |

Around this time every year, I used to look out for the flag cruising through the air. It’s fun for a kid, spotting shapes in the sky. I preferred it to the flashy jets turning tricks up high even though both were decidedly military. For one, it did not disrupt thought with deafening demands for attention. Chinook helicopters are tugboats, chugging under a nation’s gaze as they bear an ornament the size of a basketball court.

The real celebration for me was the tattoos. Coming from a conservative family, this was the only occasion I could place anything called a tattoo on my body (and face) without being told off. In the name of national celebration, this was okay. I stuck red and white emblems on parts of my body that were hidden so that I could keep them for as long as possible. I showered with care. I gazed at painted faces, wishing I could do the same.

I eventually did; paint the faces of children that is. Parties are yet another celebration, yet another opportunity to decorate your body. Children love it. They wait in impatient pairs, and they always know exactly what they want. Even the shy ones who blush their answers at you. Superman, butterfly, tiger. They dash off, laughing at each other. They come back tearfully for repairs.

They seem to know the secret, that body art gives you wings. There’s something singular about skin as canvas and skin as transformation. Maybe because it’s the largest organ in our body, maybe because for many, it’s the first thing that others see.

Your body is your flag. I hope it hosts your heart’s desire, no matter the occasion, no matter the form.

wei lin

(From August 7, 2021)

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