Jason Macdonald is one of the pioneers of body piercing in the country, having brought the industry to Cape Town’s city center more than 20 years ago.
He still runs a successful piercing parlor in one of Cape Town’s most famous areas – Long Street.
“I’ve been piercing for 21 years. I was one of the first in the country to start the trade, alongside Eddie Graham, who was Johannesburg-based but has now passed away.”
Jason said that he initially wanted to study clinical psychology but opted to travel straight after school.
He said he always had an interest in tribalism.
“The warrior aspect appealed to me, and seeing the tribe with big holes in their ears and bones through the noses was fascinating to me as a child. And then seeing it westernized when I was traveling struck a chord in me.”
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At school, he said he always enjoyed biology and was fascinated with clinical procedures, so he aligned the two.
And no one was doing it in the country when he came back, so he thought it was a good idea to start it and become a pioneer.
Macdonald then opened “Wildfire”, a piercing and tattoo studio in Long Street, a floor above the then “Purple Turtle” nightclub 21 years ago, with people from all over the world.
“Before it became popular, we would go for days without any customers but when it picked up there were queues right down to Greenmarket Square waiting to get pierced because I was the only one.”
Drug dealers at the time moved into the area and started trading in front of the building and on the stairs, so Macdonald was forced to move his business further up Long Street.
Macdonald said that when he first opened his shop “Wildfire”, he didn’t think it would make money.
“It was more an artistic expression and I brought it back to Cape Town, sort of going back to our roots. It’s a spiritual thing too.”
Asked about learning to pierce, Jason said he was self-taught.
“While I was travelling, I learnt what I could, especially in London. I would say the best way to learn is through apprenticeship. When I started there wasn’t Google and YouTube, it was mainly intuition and getting to know the body. I booked many appointments with dermatologists and homeopaths, and studied some Chinese medicine, just to get to know the energy systems and the skin and body.”
And although Macdonald has explored many parts of the world and lived all over Cape Town including the city centre, he said he loved the “scent” of the CBD.
“It has a vibe to it, you know, a pulse. It has changed a lot over the years.”
He said when he first came to the city, Riebeeck Street and the surrounding area were the place to be. However, the energy started shifting upwards.
“At a time, Greenmarket Square was pumping, now it has shifted higher and higher. It’s expansion, and it is interesting to see. It’s amazing.”
He said he also loves the city because of the tourists and exchange students who come in, apart from the fact that “Long Street is great”.
Macdonald himself wears many earrings, besides the other different types of piercings he has tried on himself over the years.
He said in the past people used to stare at men when they wore one earring, but now, people are just curious.
“There’s a lot more self-expression in the city, so people are more interested in my many earrings as anything else. I’m always smiling, so I believe it’s the way you carry yourself.”
He said when he first started, people used to want their bellies and tongues pierced all the time, and it took a while for people to get creative.
Now, he says the septum (through the middle of the nose) and body modifications have become popular, such as tongue splitting. The weirdest places he has ever been asked to pierce were third nipples and second penises.
“But it’s not weird to me at all. I have done so many already it’s more interesting to see than anything else.”
While Macdonald believes piercing will never go out of fashion, he said different parts of the body go out of fashion, and sometimes make a comeback.
“Now with social media, things become popular all the time. It has changed the face of piercing.”