Living up to her grandfather’s name is no walk in the park for Su. “I felt the pressure when I first started out. I was third in line to continue the family trade. But with my development as an artist came my confidence. I found my footing. Now with the support of my mother and elder brother, I am even more confident of continuing my grandfather’s legacy.”
A few years ago, Su made a tribute journey to Shillong, Meghalaya, India, where her grandfather was born. The capital is untouched by time, untainted by modernity. “I learnt to appreciate the value of things we take for granted in Singapore, things like fridges and fresh food.”
The trip was also a visceral one, allowing Su to connect with his grandfather’s humble beginnings. By foot, he and his wife walked from the mountains and navigated the thick forest along manmade paths to reach a ship that would bear them to Singapore. “Times were dire and he had nothing to his name.”
It is Su’s hope to introduce her family’s next generation of tattooists to their roots. “I want to stir in them a passion — obsession, even — for art. I want them to embark on my family’s rite of passage: to learn from the bottom up. I also want them to put others’ needs before their own, the same way my grandfather did.”
That indeed, is how she carries on her grandfather’s legacy.