The men of the number cut the emblems of their allegiance into their skin. Facial tattoos are the ultimate abandonment of all hope of a life outside.
For her first solo photographic exhibition, After Life, Araminta de Clermont explores the tattoos sported by members of South Africa's notorious prison gangs. Tattoos, particularly facial, are a gesture of defiance to the prison authorities and show a prisoner's status. The pigment is created by mixing burned paper, ground-up rubber washers or brick dust with saliva. De Clermont tracked the gang members after prison and discovered their stories. The exhibition opened this week in Cape Town, but you can see some of the works here
Bless and Kojak: The twins are 43 years old and spent 19 years in prison for stabbing a man who was 'interfering' with Kojak's girlfriend. Bless, who is more tattooed than his brother, is a member of the 28s. A spider web on his neck shows that he will wait patiently for prey, and the four stars on his shoulder are like epaulettes, indicating his high rank. Both men have fangs tattooed under their lips to signify that they will bite, and devil horns on their foreheads
Ali is a quiet man who now works at St George's Cathedral in Cape Town as a cleaner and handyman. He was once a high-ranking gang member, as shown by crowns on the front of his shoulders. His eyelids are also tattooed
PKD, 35, has served 15 years for five offences, including armed robbery and murder, and was released last year. He said tattooing was a release because it was a form of self-expression that was forbidden but could not be confiscated. He has 'vra my nix' ('ask me nothing' in Afrikaans) written across his forehead, and his gang number, 28, on his neck. Small dollars by the side of his mouth show the influence of Cape Town's newer street gangs
Joseph, now a part-time odd job man, once had the rudest possible insult about someone's mother tattooed across his forehead but fearing it was too offensive he covered it with another, larger tattoo of a wine bottle pouring wine into a glass. Removing facial tattoos through the conventional means of laser treatment or skin grafts is out of the budgets of most former prisoners. Some choose to remove the tattoos with nail clippers or by burning them off, which leaves terrible scarring
Omar is well over 6ft tall and covered in scores of small tattoos. He was jailed for 15 years for stabbing a man who had hit him over the head with a rock. He was a 'king' in prison, a high status member of the 28s gang - the tattoo of a hand on his neck is their salute. The scorpion on his upper arm shows his membership of the Cape Town Scorpions gang. Omar was released from prison in 2004 and now sleeps rough and sells wine to his fellow street people
Johannis is an old school Number gang member and his tattoos show the strong Zulu influence in 'Number lore'. He lost his legs after leaving prison when he was run over by a truck. He makes his money begging and is often attended by two other former gang members who push him where he wants to go