Origins | Spring 2014

Page 34


Across the world, people change their bodies into the form they find most beautiful. Piercings and scarification are ways in which body modification can be achieved, but these beautification traditions are met with extreme prejudice by many cultures. Body mutilation has various levels of what is considered extreme and what is accepted in mainstream society. Specifically, in Western culture, a woman with pierced ears is considered normal; nevertheless, scarred designs are viewed with stigma. What draws the line between the acceptable and intolerable? Throughout history, scarification and piercings are used to enhance beauty among both the elites and the lower class. In modern societies, these personalizations of the flesh are looked upon as a sub-culture and perverse. The T iv In Africa, Tiv tribal scarification and teeth chipping is very common. Both women and men take part in scarification and teeth chipping, but the placement in which women and men place the scars differs. Both scar their faces, but men are more likely to scar their chest and arms; in contrast, women place the scars on their stomachs, calves, and backs. Scar designs differ: scars do not show tribal association, rather they identify a person as being a part of a specific generation. From generation to generation, popular scarification types differ. Sometimes what is considered popular varies between design and the technique used for creating the scars. Even this varies because the same designs are used to appear older or younger. Typical scars have red ochre or charcoal rubbed into them to add color. Many popular designs compose the repertoire among the Tiv including the swallow, catfish, chameleon, and scorpion. Scorpion designs are considered masculine; however, few, if any, Tiv women may have the design on their body. A variety of geometric designs are also used throughout

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