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The Cultural Art Of Body Art

1423 words - 6 pages

For a long time now body art and decoration has been a custom in many cultural groups. Through research we have learned about the different types of body art and ornamentation such as permanent and nonpermanent tattooing, scarification, and piercings. These forms of body art and ornamentation are done for a variety of reasons, ranging from identification purposes to religious rituals. “Skin, as a visible way of defining individual identity and cultural difference, is not only a highly elaborated preoccupation in many cultures; it is also the subject of wide-ranging and evolving scholarly discourse in the humanities and social sciences” (Schildkrout, 2004). The process of ornamentation and body art is usually a painful experience, but it is a way to signify a person’s self-discovery and their place in society. In this paper, I will explore the different aspects of body art and ornamentation in two different cultures; the Maori people of New Zealand and the Yoruba’s of West Africa and explain the cultural importance of their art.
Throughout West Africa it is not uncommon to come across people that have scar stripe patterns on their cheeks. The facial stripes that they wear are not produced by paint or tattoos, like many other cultures, but only by scarification. However, in his article, Orie explains that not all of the Yoruba people have the facial stripes. Okola is a term used for describing someone whose face is scarred, it means ‘the one with facial stripes’. People that do not have the stripes are referred to as oboro, or ‘plain, not striped face’ (Orie, 2011). While there are many different patterns of stripes worn by the Yoruba people in West Africa, it is always both cheeks that are striped. Most of the time, the stripes on each cheek are symmetrical, however, there are times when asymmetrical patterns are present. When asymmetrical patterns are present it is because wealthy or royal families have intermarried. You will never see someone that only has stripes on one cheek though.
In the Yoruba culture, facial stripes are primarily used to represent their lineage and family membership that explain status, obligations, and duties. Secondarily, they are seen as a symbol of beauty or a derogatory symbol to keep troublesome kids alive. In his article Orie states that “Every Yoruba is born into a patrilineal clan” (Orie, 2011). When the children are born their parents decide when the scarification will take place, this usually happens between the age of three weeks to three months. The procedure is done by an oloola or akomola which is a professionally trained specialist. The procedure is said to be performed at dawn to help minimize the loss of blood, dawn being the coldest part of the day. The patrilineal stripes declare the clan membership of the children, and ensure that they are not denied the entitlements and rights of the clan members. There are many differences in the length, depth, spacing, and the placement of the stripes on the...

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