Monday, February 7, 2011

The Culture of Body Modification

For someone that absolutely hates tattooing I have to say I find ritual scarification completely beautiful. Many villagers in the North cut cross scars in their foreheads as a testament to their faith, others tattoo crosses between their eyes. All in the name of religion. Many peoples across Africa make three scars just beside the eyes, like pre-age wrinkling but nicer, there is something about the commitment to cut into yourself in the name of ancient breast enhancement I guess.

Part deux of the journey is to head South for a totally different experience than the architectural beauty and natural diversity in the North. It is in the south that ritual scarring and body modifications take on a whole new meaning. It is in the south where the Mursi lip-stretchers are, this tribe inserts clay plates into their bottom lip until it reaches unimaginable diameters as a sign of beauty. Then, once married, they let themselves go a bit and are left with a dangling lip. I just wonder what it looks like when their jaw drops.

The Hamer people are famous for their body modifications including ear stretching like the emo kids do at home. Except this actually is cultural. And the Jinka perform scarification across their faces in different patterns including rubbing ash into wounds to darken the scars.

Coming from a cultural wasteland that is North America I can't help but ask the nagging question: why? Why perform these rituals that have no basis anymore in cleansing practices or even in finding a mate. Now, those that have their lips stretched are equally at home in their mud hut and on their mobile. It is culture and it should be preserved but a lot of the 'culture' is now solely for the tourist dollar.

Is tourism preserving culture by making it profitable or bastardizing it by making those that perform their cultural practices like animals in a zoo to be stared at? I don't have an answer to this question and I don't think it can be answered, but I am determined to get some damn cool photos of it.

1 comment:

  1. So interesting that they are using their rituals to bring tourists... it only makes sense that there would be some sort of small benefit for stretching your lip/ears/ash rubbing in wounds! I want a picture of someone on their cell phone while getting tattooed! ;)