Doctor tattoos African lake onto her own back to promote floating clinic

The founder of a medical service in Lake Tanganyika has gone to extraordinary lengths to promote her ‘floating clinic’ organisation by tattooing the whole of the world’s second largest freshwater lake onto her back.

Dr Amy Lehman talked about the tattoo in a recent interview with SCMP.

“This tattoo took about 18 to 19 hours over four sessions,” she said. “I designed it with the tattoo artist. It is my way of saying, ‘Look I’ve committed my whole life to doing this and it’s a thing that I carry with me everywhere.’ It’s also a tool for me and my work.”

“I’m not joking when I say it’s the alternative marketing strategy of the Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic,” Lehman adds.” It really works – nobody forgets.”

Lehman and others use a network of boats to ferry medics and health supplies to people living on all shores of the lake in Central Africa, enabling them to reach remote locations that conventional aid services cannot.

“There’s one boat we always use,” Lehman says, “and then we rent other boats to move our goods around the lake. We go to the most remote places in the basin, as they are not receiving any services.”

The isolated Lake Tanganyika basin’s future is heavily linked to the furious development of the modern world around it. Rich in natural resources like oil and minerals, Lehman’s NGO partner WAVE says that Tanganyika “exists at the nexus of several global struggles and is increasingly attracting the attention of outside interests ranging from multi-national energy and mining corporations to global powers.”

The region surrounding the lake is home to millions of indigenous and displaced peoples, spread across four countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Burundi and Zambia. The floating clinic and WAVE are working together to protect this population as the demand of a globalised world encroaches upon the lake’s borders.

Watch an interview with Dr Lehman below.

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