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Anthropology Online: Real-Life Examples of Body Art

Woman rubbbing red pigment on her leg

In a previous blog post, I have written about body art. Now, I’d like to share a few videos with you that show real-life examples of body art. The first video is of the Himba people who live in Namibia. Himba women are famous for their body painting. Each day, the women paint their bodies with a mixture of fat and red ochre (a red mineral), which turns their skin a reddish hue. They also put it in their hair. It is very similar to wearing makeup, but it’s all over the body. Have you ever wondered why women in Western cultures only paint their faces with makeup and not their whole bodies? Once you think about it, it seems a little strange for us to only paint our faces! Watch the video below to see Himba women painting their bodies.

The next video is of the Zo’é people. These people live in the Amazon rainforests of northern Brazil. The Zo’é people are famous for the long wooden lip plugs that are inserted into their lower lips. When girls are about seven years old and boys are about nine years old, they have a small wooden plug inserted into a hole cut in their lower lip. Then, as they get older, larger and larger lip plugs are used. While the lip plugs may seem unusual, many people in Western cultures do something similar by piercing their lips and/or tongue and inserting a decorative item into the hole. The Zo’é women also decorate themselves with a headdress made out of white bird feathers. Watch the video below to see the lip plugs and the process of making the headdress.

The last 2 videoes are of the Surma people in Ethiopia. The men are famous for a type of stick fighting called Donga. In order to prepare for the fight, the men decorate their bodies with mud. Watch the video below to see more real-life examples of body art, this time of men doing body painting.

The Surma men also undergo a form of body art called scarification to prepare for the Donga. As you may remember from a previous blog post, scarification is when the skin is cut and deliberately scarred, in order to create designs on the body. The video below shows the process of scarification–please note this is rather graphic.


Want to Learn More?

Do you want to learn more about Anthropology and body art? Check out my Udemy course, “Exploring The Arts Through Cultural Anthropology.”

Thanks for reading!

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