Scarification: New Take on the Tattoo or Ancient Art?
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
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