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African Scarification

African Scarification In Africa, scarification has served as an important element of the culture of different groups. Scarification involves placing superficial incisions on the skin using stones, glass, knives, or other tools to create meaningful pictures, words, or designs. This permanent body modification can communicate a plethora of cultural expressions. From Ethiopia to Papua New Guinea, scarification produces scars of different sizes, shapes, and positions to show clan identity, status within a community, passage into adulthood, or spiritual significance. Young boys of the Chambri tribe in Papua New Guinea use scarification as a part of a ritual to mark the transition into adulthood. The generations-old ritual stems from the Chambri tribe belief in a legend in which humans evolved from crocodiles. To pay tribute to these animals the boys undergo scarification to produce scars resembling those of crocodile scales.1 This painful process in the transition to becoming a man is intended to exhibit strength, discipline, and endurance. These qualities are of paramount importance in becoming an effective hunter and warrior. A young man who has already experienced the feeling of his flesh being torn and cut would be less likely to fear the teeth of a wild animal or the tip of an enemy’s spear. In Sudan, girls of the Nuba undergo scarification at different stages of their life. At the onset of puberty they receive marks on their chest, forehead, and abdomen. A second set of cuts are placed under the breasts at first menstruation. These scars are then augmented after the weaning of their first child.2 The Nuba scarification denotes maturity in women and are perceived as marks of beauty. For the Nuba, scars can also serve a medicinal purpose; scars above the eyes are believed to improve eyesight, and scars on the temples help to relieve headaches. The motives for scarification in other parts of Africa is extremely diverse. The Suri men of Ethiopia scar their bodies to show that they have killed someone from an enemy tribe. The Ekoi of Nigeria believe that the scars serve as money on their way to the afterlife. In Ethiopia, the Mursi practice scarification for largely aesthetic reasons in order to attract the opposite sex and enhance the tactile experience of sex.2 The scars we have can serve as mementos of life experiences both good and bad. Whether scars are intentional or the result of a surgery, accident, or disease, they tell a unique story about the person who holds them. Much like tattoos and piercings, the tradition of scarification in Africa is just one of many ways people have figured out how to decorate the canvas that is our skin. Back to top Article Information Corresponding Author: Jorge Roman, BS, The University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine, 301 University Blvd, Galveston, TX 77555 (joroman@utmb.edu). References 1. Gay K, Whittington C. Body Marks: Tattooing, Piercing, and Scarification. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press; 2002. 2. Pitt Rivers Museum Body Arts Scarification. Pitt Rivers Museum website. http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/bodyarts/index.php/permanent-body-arts/scarification.html. Accessed January 2016. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png JAMA Dermatology American Medical Association

African Scarification

JAMA Dermatology , Volume 152 (12) – Dec 1, 2016

African Scarification

Abstract

In Africa, scarification has served as an important element of the culture of different groups. Scarification involves placing superficial incisions on the skin using stones, glass, knives, or other tools to create meaningful pictures, words, or designs. This permanent body modification can communicate a plethora of cultural expressions. From Ethiopia to Papua New Guinea, scarification produces scars of different sizes, shapes, and positions to show clan identity, status within a community,...
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Publisher
American Medical Association
Copyright
Copyright © 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.
ISSN
2168-6068
eISSN
2168-6084
DOI
10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.0086
pmid
27973657
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

In Africa, scarification has served as an important element of the culture of different groups. Scarification involves placing superficial incisions on the skin using stones, glass, knives, or other tools to create meaningful pictures, words, or designs. This permanent body modification can communicate a plethora of cultural expressions. From Ethiopia to Papua New Guinea, scarification produces scars of different sizes, shapes, and positions to show clan identity, status within a community, passage into adulthood, or spiritual significance. Young boys of the Chambri tribe in Papua New Guinea use scarification as a part of a ritual to mark the transition into adulthood. The generations-old ritual stems from the Chambri tribe belief in a legend in which humans evolved from crocodiles. To pay tribute to these animals the boys undergo scarification to produce scars resembling those of crocodile scales.1 This painful process in the transition to becoming a man is intended to exhibit strength, discipline, and endurance. These qualities are of paramount importance in becoming an effective hunter and warrior. A young man who has already experienced the feeling of his flesh being torn and cut would be less likely to fear the teeth of a wild animal or the tip of an enemy’s spear. In Sudan, girls of the Nuba undergo scarification at different stages of their life. At the onset of puberty they receive marks on their chest, forehead, and abdomen. A second set of cuts are placed under the breasts at first menstruation. These scars are then augmented after the weaning of their first child.2 The Nuba scarification denotes maturity in women and are perceived as marks of beauty. For the Nuba, scars can also serve a medicinal purpose; scars above the eyes are believed to improve eyesight, and scars on the temples help to relieve headaches. The motives for scarification in other parts of Africa is extremely diverse. The Suri men of Ethiopia scar their bodies to show that they have killed someone from an enemy tribe. The Ekoi of Nigeria believe that the scars serve as money on their way to the afterlife. In Ethiopia, the Mursi practice scarification for largely aesthetic reasons in order to attract the opposite sex and enhance the tactile experience of sex.2 The scars we have can serve as mementos of life experiences both good and bad. Whether scars are intentional or the result of a surgery, accident, or disease, they tell a unique story about the person who holds them. Much like tattoos and piercings, the tradition of scarification in Africa is just one of many ways people have figured out how to decorate the canvas that is our skin. Back to top Article Information Corresponding Author: Jorge Roman, BS, The University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine, 301 University Blvd, Galveston, TX 77555 (joroman@utmb.edu). References 1. Gay K, Whittington C. Body Marks: Tattooing, Piercing, and Scarification. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press; 2002. 2. Pitt Rivers Museum Body Arts Scarification. Pitt Rivers Museum website. http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/bodyarts/index.php/permanent-body-arts/scarification.html. Accessed January 2016.

Journal

JAMA DermatologyAmerican Medical Association

Published: Dec 1, 2016

References

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