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Interview by: Thursday 9 August 2018
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Exhibition & Short Film Screening: 'The Number'

Internationally-acclaimed tattooer and fine artist Manuela Gray will present her latest project, 'The Number', at The London Tattoo Convention this September. 

A glimpse into gang and prison culture, the short film and art project reveals the inked code of the three notorious South African 'numbers' gangs, 26's, 27's and 28's.

Gang members each bear the identifying number tattoo to show which faction they belong to - but this only scratches the surface of the many marks etched across their bodies.

Working alongside cinematographer Brendan McGinty, the short film engages viewers in candid conversations with gang members, revealing the previously unspoken language of their body art.

Inspired to document the phenomenon, Gray says "I became obsessed with the seeming simplicity and brutality of the marks, and the very real power and secrecy they held. I wanted to document it before it disappears."

Accompanied by a selection of black and white photographs, Gray introduces another medium - sewing - to embellish the images. Of the hand-stitched artworks, Gray says "I was particularly drawn to this meeting of my personal history of stitching with the disruption of the surface of the prints. I was also drawn to the inevitable collision of people's gender expectations with 'stitching' and its engagement with the world of The Number, so the medium was not accidental. The engaging with and breaking of the physical surface, has always been part of my art"

Funds raised by the project are being directed to provide training and rehabilitation initiatives for former gang members. 

View 'The Number' documentary film, alongside a selection of photographic works from the project, at The London Tattoo Convention 28th-30th September. Advance Tickets are now available to purchase online.