During my latest visit to Ethiopia I visited the Suri tribe. The Suri tribe is one of the last tribes in Africa who are still practicing the art of body modification. A memorable process to have been a witness of.
Scarification, as a cultural activity, is widely performed across Africa. In essence, it is the practice of incising the skin with a sharp instrument, in such a way as to control the shape of the scar tissue on various parts of the body. Scarification, along with hair & clotingstyles implies its importance as a major aesthetic and cultural component.
Cicatrisation is a special form of scarification, whereby a gash is made in the skin with a sharp instrument, and irritation of the skin caused by applying caustic plant juices forms permanent blisters.
Dark pigments such as ground charcoal or gunpowder are sometimes rubbed into the wound to provide emphasis. These cuts, when healed, form raised scars, known as keloids.
Scarification is a long and painful process, and a permanent modification of the body, transmitting complex messages about identity and social status. Permanent body markings emphasise fixed social, political and religious roles.
The Suri people were very willing for me to see the process. Although for me an intriguing process, for them a common activity.