Jail is the worst place ever and if you go to prison for a long time your best bet is probably to join a gang. If you ever find yourself in a South African prison the three speeds of gangs are thusly organized: 26, 27 & 28. 26s are scammers and counterfeiters. 27s are “Manskap of blood” or murderers and violent criminals. 28s are sex offenders. On entrance into prison criminals network in relation to their offense. One of the main prison rituals is the decoration of the body with tattoos which enforce gang hierarchy and status. Tattooing is also the only means of self-expression. Convicts testify to crimes committed and communicate messages of blame, threat, regret, and tribute to loved ones. The gallows is a symbol that you were up against the death penalty. Walt Disney’s signature script is a font with special and top-secret significance. Tattooing is forbidden but the Numbers are dedicated to the ritual and make do with whatever they can get. They grind up old garbage bins for ink, they pull nails out of furniture for tattoo needles. You may be asking yourself how I know all this. I was not incarcerated in South Africa, rather I found out about Heather Parker Lewis’s investigative book God’s Gangsters. She looks into the Number’s history, customs, reigns of terror, and power which has been flourishing behind bars for over 100 years. The photographs of Araminta de Clermont and Mikhael Subotzky depict the decrepit fragility of released prisoners marked forever with self-given tattoos. Here’s the link to “God’s Gangsters”, unfortunately not not currently available on Amazon. And if you’re interested in prison tattoo culture, read our feature on Russian Prison Tattoos for a lengthy breakdown..

More photos from “God’s Gangsters” after the Jump…

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2 Responses to “God’s Gangsters: The Numbers, Gangs & South African Tattoo Prison Culture”

  1. There Gay says:

    I watched a video on you tube about the numbers gang. Their favourite past time seems to be having sex with other men. The leaders favorite is when he has a penis in his mouth, one in his arse, and one in each hand. He also insists that he gets gangbanged by a different group of men each night. He also dresses up as a woman, never leaves his cell without a handbag, wears make up and loves high heels as much as your average woman. He also dreams of a sex change and wants breast implants. He also insists on being called a female and goes by the name of Juliet Cocklover. he doesnt say much apart from “I’m a lady” in a upperclass english womans voice. He’s the prison bike, everyone has had a ride on him and could probably rank top place for having sex with more men than any other man in history, he has to be the most gay man that has every lived. He is famous for saying “if there was suddenly no men in the world apart from myself I would kill myself as I couldnt go a single day without sucking lots of mens penis’s and getting gangbanged. I’m a lady”.

  2. Thokozane says:

    hosh madoda ase mpumalanga

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