In 1989 I lied about my age and ordered a copy of RE/Search Publications now classic “Modern Primitives”. At the time I had already started getting tattooed, pierced and modified but the book showed me that there was a community of people interested in the same things I was. I read it cover to cover, time and time again.
One of the folks featured was a Canadian artist named ManWoman who’s mission was to reclaim the Swastika from it’s misuse from Hitler and the Third Reich, and to reintroduce it to the world as the ancient and loving symbol it is. To that end, Manny had both arms tattooed symmetrically with Swastikas from all over the world. Hundreds of them. Big ones and small, each mirrored on the opposite arm. I didn’t know what to make of it, or him for that matter.
Years later, wandering around the NYC Tattoo Convention at the Roseland Ballroom, an older gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and introduced himself. “Shawn? I’m ManWoman. I’m glad to meet you.”
We chatted for almost an hour and I found him to be a sweet, caring man passionate about defending and reclaiming the Swastika for sure; but also passionate about art and human advancement. Before we finally parted ways, Manny reached into his bag, pulled out a copy of ‘The Gentle Swastika’ and handed it to me as a gift between two new friends. I pull it out from time to time, to show folks who don’t quite understand the Swastika’s history and I always remember Manny with a smile.
Earlier this year when my life was turbulent and unstable, I got a message on Google+ from Manny. He could sense that I wasn’t really in a good place, and he sent me a Happy Swastika image with a note telling me to cheer up. We chatted back and forth and I ended up with a goofy grin on my face, knowing that somewhere in Canada Manny took some time out of his day to cheer up someone he had only met face to face once.
Manny lost his fight against cancer today. His light and legacy will live on in everyone who’s life he touched.
Thank you, Manny, and rest in peace.