Arts·Art Hurts

Tee Fergus didn't see a space for herself in the tattoo world. So, she created one

Toronto artist Thomarya "Tee" Fergus lets you in on why tattooing is a healing art for her, and why it means so much to her to create a safe space to do it in.

'I didn’t ever think of tattooing because I just never saw myself in tattooing.'

This is part four of Art Hurts, a new CBC Arts digital series now streaming on CBC Gem, that focuses on eight of the game-changers in the Canadian tattoo landscape. And they're all female-identifying or gender non-binary. Just saying, guys.

Thomarya Fergus (whom everybody calls "Tee") is a multi-dimensional artist based in Toronto. She's always idenfitifed as an artist, but her tattoo practice developed pretty unexpectedly. Born in St. Vincent in the Grenadines, Fergus came to Canada at 13 years old. And when she started becoming aware of tattoos, she was drawn to them. She liked that the art was a sort of rebellion against the norm. At the same time, she says, "I didn't ever think of tattooing because I just never saw myself in tattooing. It just wasn't that kind of a world, where I was like, 'Oh yeah, there's a queer Black woman tattooer.' It didn't exist to me."

In this video made by filmmakers Priscilla Galvez and Jeff Pavlopoulos of Silent Tower, you go inside Fergus's new private tattoo studio in Kensington Market where she's shattering stereotypes about the relationship of tattoos to Black skin while she uses her art as a form of healing. Fergus says, "Now I realize that I tattoo because it's part of my medicine. It's part of my contribution of healing, I guess I can say the world. It's big. It's part of my contribution of reconnecting a lot of people to themselves."

Follow Tee Fergus here and you can also see her work as part of a group exhibition (that Fergus curated) called "Bridges to the Other Side" at 187 Augusta Ave. in Toronto, March 1-3.

Stream Art Hurts now on CBC Gem.


Lise Hosein is a producer at CBC Arts. Before that, she was an arts reporter at JazzFM 91, an interview producer at George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. When she's not at her CBC Arts desk she's sometimes an art history instructor and is always quite terrified of bees.