This story is over 5 years old.

Jamaican Dancehall Artists are Blinding Themselves by Getting Eyeball Tattoos

Two young Jamaican artists have done it, and it's disgusting.
Ryan Bassil
London, GB

If the government is right about one thing, it’s that the internet is a disgusting cesspool of brain-riddling filth that will demonise children and end the world. Underneath the beautified layers of Videos That Will Really Change Your Life and inoffensive HEY LOOK AT MY FUNNY EMAIL SIGN OFF gifs, tiny children without brains are copying adult people without brains with fairly horrifying concequences.


Take, for example, the case of Jamaican dancehall artist Mace who almost went blind AFTER TATTOOING HIS OWN EYEBALLS. The eyeball, of course, being perhaps the number one place to not put anything that hasn’t been prescribed, in case of contact immediately wash with water, OMG YOU’VE GOT AN EYELASH LET ME SAVE YOU, ETC.

Mace was following in the footsteps of fellow Jamaican dancehall artist, Alkaline, who reportedly tattooed his eyeballs last Spring. Tattoos are an integral part of dancehall culture, just look at Vybz Cartel, who is covered head-to-toe in them like a walking painting. As Gaza Slim explained in our Noisey Jamaica series, they’re used to distinguish specific groups and crews within Dancehall. But both Alkaline and Mace have gone one step further.

The reason for sticking needles full of ink in their eye, Alkaline says, is only “partly due to [getting the attention], but also because [I'm] calm and contented this way. Any entertainer, or artist of any calibre, wants to maintain the spotlight and the public attention.” Basically that's the sort of response from someone who is famous for having eyeball tattoos wanting to pretend he didn’t get an eyeball tattoo to be famous.

Despite a bunch of real life pictures of real life needles being stuck into real life eyes, this sort of – I did it just because - response led some people to believe that Alkaline fabricated the entire ordeal for his own worth.


But, for some reason, I’m not sure if I believe the ‘ALKALINE EYE BALLS FAKE EXPOSED’ video uploaded by YouTube user yaardie95. Sure, the tattooed eyeballs look similar to contact-lense filled eyeballs (see: Tyler, The Creator), but eyeball tattoos aren’t a new thing.

In 2008, The Sun ran a story about a “body-art nutter who plunged a needle into his eye FORTY times to turn it bright blue” and in 2013 The Daily Mail published a piece about a Brazilian man who “cried ink for two days” after tattooing his eyeball. In order to find out exactly how a person can tattoo the thing they see out of, I called up several doctors and tattoo artists. Most were too busy doing real work to speak to me, but a tattooing expert in Hackney was keen to talk.

The guy who I spoke to works at the Happy Sailor tattoo company in Hackney. He has a mate with an eye tattoo and, unlike Mace, he's “completely fine”. If done properly, eyeball tattoos can be “done by doctors, because it’s not really tattooing, it’s injecting”. The process involves sticking a needle into the sclera, the protective outer layer of the eyes, and injecting it with ink. Unlike tattoos, which involve intricate designs, tattooing the eyeball is sort of like “dropping paint on the floor and watching it spread” as in, it is literally dropping ink into the eye and watching it spread.

In case you wondered what that dangerous process looks like, above is a video that I haven’t watched because I’m eating lunch right now and EURGH. I listened to the audio though, and a guy says that “when you feel the needle going in, it’s like there’s something cold placed on your eyeball” which sounds like a really sadomasochistic way to cool down.


My tattoo artist expert friend told me that the procedure is irreversible, lasting for a lifetime. I asked him if that would produce any long-term problems and he told me to call him back in thirty years because we don't really know yet. I told him shut up because I’m on deadline and he told me that no one knows for sure, because eyeball tattoos are such a new thing. However, he believes that it will cause a bunch of problems with ink spreading to both the cornea and the iris. This links with eyeball doctor specialists, who have “advised against the procedure which can cause inflammation and even vision loss”.

In an interview with OnStage TV, Alkaline stated that his eyeball tattoos will “dissolve over time”, which contradicts statements from both my tattoo artist expert friend and opthamologists. Maybe YouTube user yaardie95 is right. Maybe yaardie95 is the conspiracy theorist we’ve all been waiting for and Alkaline is a sham.

Either way, Mace, the dancehall artist who copied Alkaline, definitely tattooed his eyeball, as he was rushed to hospital after the needle pierced below the layer of his eyes.

Will eyeball tattoos become a trend? Is it going to be a thing that will be on Gawker in four months time? You get the sense this could be the passion-gap of Dancehall, but I really, really hope it’s not.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanBassil