Tatted: International student draws inspiration from loss and origins

This is Tatted, a podcast telling the stories behind people's ink.
Graphic by Kat Owens


Junior, Yuhi (U-he) Ndahiro (Da-hear-o) was born in Kenya, but grew up speaking Finnish. His mother is from Finland, while his father is from Rwanda.

Before he was born, his parents moved out of Rwanda because of the genocide in 1994. When Ndahiro was one year old, his family moved back to Rwanda to help rebuild the country.

Ndahiro’s Nordic and African roots have inspired most of his tattoos. 

“[My family] always feel so proud of me, like ‘I love that you’re proud of your culture,'” he said. “Most people that travel outside of Rwanda always forget where they come from and their heritage.”

Ndahiro said his tattoos help open conversation with his peers about culture.

In his lifetime, Ndahiro said he has been able to see Rwanda be redeemed from the violent war-torn country to housing the cleanest city in Africa: Kigali, the country’s capitol. 

“Today… 23 years on, it’s one of the top countries in the world,” he said.

This tattoo is a blend of the coat of arms of Finland, the lion, and the national basket of Rwanda to show Ndahiro's connection to both countries. The swords were just added in for effect, he said. 
Ndahiro said traditionally Rwandan people do not approve of tattoos, but his dad eventually warmed up to his.
"Everyone in Finland has tattoos, but in Rwanda it's very taboo," he said.
Photo by Kayla Drake
Ndahiro said he has no connection to Mexican culture, but admired what Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) stood for.
"During the genocide I lost a lot of family... even though I never got to meet them, maybe I can celebrate their lives through some kind of way," he said.
Photo by Kayla Drake

This is the Nordic folklore version of Thor's hammer, as a tribute to Ndahiro's Finnish heritage. Within the hammer is a Celtic trinity knot, the "embodiment of soul mind and body." Ndahiro said it reflects how he is as a person, connected and calm.
Photo by Kayla Drake

Be still, was a spontaneous matching tattoo with his sister. It was inspired from the Bible verse Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God," but also has a twofold meaning for Ndahiro to be still in his decisions and heart, he said.
Photo by Kayla Drake

Ndahiro has six siblings and studies sports management and economics at Lindenwood. He actually played professional soccer in Croatia before attending university. 
As for his future, Ndahiro said he is unconcerned with his tattoos being a barrier to a career.
"It's not about what you have on your skin, the color of your skin or if you have a big beard like I do," he said. "It should be about your work ethic and what you bring to the table."
Photo by Kayla Drake

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About Kayla Drake 141 Articles
Kayla is our multimedia producer, so basically all things video and podcasts. She prefers to cover human interest stories because she believes we learn best by hearing personal testimonies of grief, passion, tribulation and activism. When Kayla is not editing or writing, most likely she is either hiking or eating. And by eating she doesn’t mean fast food, college grub, but the St. Louis restaurant scene (which is to die for). She is a proud St. Louisan and is passionate about being a part in the city's redemption. Look for the girl with the stickered out water bottle on campus and say hi.