We live in a society that inexorably ties personal identity to outward appearance. We communicate who we are through the clothes we don, the makeup we wear, and the fashions we do or don’t follow. Some people choose more unusual forms of self-expression such as body modification which includes tattoos, piercings, and rather recently – scarification.
Scarification leaves a distinct mark on the skin like tattooing but no ink is used. Instead, parts of the epidermis (the topmost layer of skin) are cut and sometimes large areas of skin are removed. When these cuts heal, they leave scars in their wake. Artists skilled at scarification can create very detailed images and writing, similar to tattooing. The results of scarification are more varied than traditional tattoos however due to individual variation in healing and scar formation.
So is scarification a truly novel art form? According to a recent report in National Geographic, the answer is no. The peoples of the western Pacific region have a long history of tattooing and scarification. Rather than being a mode of self-expression, body modification in these traditional societies has more of a cultural connotation. For example, in the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea, scarification, which is performed using slivers of bamboo, is an integral part of the initiation rite for young men.
Some speculate that the newfound interest in scarification in industrialized countries is a reflection of our nostalgia for a simpler way of life. Or perhaps it’s due to our romanticized notions of “primitive man”. Whatever the reason, scarification’s growing popularity ensures it will leave a mark on our society.
Curious what scarification looks like? Check out more Scarification images
People are always pushing the envelope when it comes to self-expression through body modification. Sometimes the things they come up with seem shocking to mainstream culture, but it’s interesting to point out that many body modifications have historical precedents, and were being done long before body modification got a pop culture following. Eyeball tattooing is no exception.
The first references to eyeball tattooing date back to the Roman Empire, when doctors first began attempting to correct discolorations in the iris using dyes and stains. The practice wasn’t mentioned much between Roman times and the 19th century, when doctors again looked to eyeball tattooing to correct abnormalities in the appearance of the eye using needles and ink. Essentially, they were giving a tattoo, though they would not have called it that.
Adding pigment to the eye by filling individual needle holes with ink, as is done in a regular tattoo, has proven problematic. The more holes that get poked in the surface of the eye, the more likely it is that damage will occur.
A much better method was pioneered in 2007. Known as the injection method, this method allows for color to be applied to the sclera, or white of the eye, using a single injection point. Of course, there is no way to control exactly where the ink goes, so precise designs are not possible. But, interesting fade effects can be achieved, and what is lost in precision is made up for in the fact that the injection method is much less dangerous for the eye.
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