Thursday, October 30, 2008
For Hindu DJ Nerm, the swastika is a symbol of goodwill. Can he reclaim it from its indelible Nazi connotations - and how do people react to his swastika tattoo?
The swastika is perhaps the most vilified symbol in the world. It conjures up images of Nazi death camps and neo-fascists, and strikes fear into the hearts of those who "don't belong" - Blacks, Asians and anyone foreign.
And me? I have a swastika symbol tattooed on the inside of my lip. And I'm Asian. How could I do that? I'm of Indian origin and in my culture the swastika is a symbol of peace and goodwill. I only found out about Hitler's appropriation of it when I studied history at school. I was astounded.
While DJing on tour in Los Angeles in 2000, I decided I would reclaim the swastika for my culture with a tattoo on the inside of my lip. The tattooist was taken aback that I would want a "Nazi logo" on my body until I explained its true meaning.
But the tattoo has faded over time. To get it redone, I visit Naresh, a tattoo artist in Kentish Town. He is mixed race with an Indian parent, and knows the symbol well, having tattooed several Indian swastikas in his time.
When people see my retouched tattoo - even good friends - they reel. I find myself repeatedly explaining what the swastika means to me and my cultural heritage, and that the symbol had been one of peace and positivity for thousands of years before Hitler stole it.
Zionists adopted the Hindu symbol. Before Zionism, synagogues did not use a six-pointed star to symbolize Judaism. The real symbols are either the two scrolls, representing the ten commandments, or the menorah.
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