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African Art  - Art Africain - Tribal Art -  菲洲艺术 - Afrikanische Kunst - Außereuropäische Kunst


Central and Southern African Tribal Art





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African Body Scarification


African Cicatrisation




Belgium Congo - Gallery Ambre Congo - Pierre Loos - Photographer Unknown


Body Art of Africa - African Scarification


African Body Art - African Tattoo




Natives of Portuguese East Africa - South African Journal of Science 21 (1924)


Scarification is a permanent procedure meant to decorate and beautify the body.




Belgium Congo - Gallery Ambre Congo - Pierre Loos - Photographer Unknown


In Africa, climate and custom permitted negligible clothing - which intern promoted body art.





        Volkerkunde - 1895 - Prof. Dr. Friedrich Razel                  Photographer  Unknown - Belgium Congo


Artists used the body as their canvas and the results became socially valuable. The operation of cutting and raising scars was common, as 'tattooing' was not an effective way to decorate dark pigmented skins.




Zagourski - Mangbetu - Ekibondo Village


Homes of important elders, headmen and the wealthy were decorated with a similar art form. Above, a Mangbetu home photographed by Polish photographer Casmir Zagourski in the first half of the 20th century.




Casimir Zagourski - Sarra Woman


The process of African scarifacation involved puncturing 'or cutting' patterns and motifs into the epidermis of the skin. Different tools produced different types of scars, some subtle, others profound.





                       Sarra Woman - Casimir Zagourski                                        Photographer Unknown


Ash and certain organic saps might be added to a wound to make the scarring more prominent and or embellished.





                            Guinea Bissau - Circa 1940                                 Tribe and Photographer Unknown


In Africa, scarification served as a symbol of strength, fortitude and courage in both men and women. Scars were used to enhance beauty and society's admiration.




Belgium Congo - Gallery Ambre Congo - Pierre Loos - Photographer Unknown


Though scarification effects were highly valued, the procedure was slow and painful. Beautiful and complex designs depended not only on the artist's skill, but also the person's tolerance of pain.





                           Guinea Bissau - Circa 1940                        Nuer Woman - Sudan - 1930 - Hugo Adolf Bernatzik


A woman's eagerness to tolerate pain was an indication of her emotional maturity and willingness to bear children.



Pregnant Women with Body Scarification - Photographers Unknown



           Equatorial Woman - Photographer Casimir Zagourski     Ivy's Albums Congo - Photographer C. Lamote



Cameroon Girl - Circa 1930


Often the first scars a young woman received were those on her abdomen, emphasizing the role of childbearing. Designs were added from youth and continued through adulthood.




Topoke Women - Belgium Congo - Photographer C. Lamote - Ivy's Albums


Body and facial patterns made it possible to identity one tribal grouping from another.



Bakutu Women - Belgium Congo - Photographer C. Lamote - Ivy's Albums

Scarification of people holding rank or status in the community, often surpassed that of commoners. Fantastic early documented scarification is shown above and below.




Bwaka Man - Belgium Congo - Casimir Zagourski


The art of scarification is changing and in many areas of Africa, it has fallen away. The pressure of encroaching urban values and the widespread adoption of clothing, contributes more and more to its declining popularity.



Yasayama Women - Belgium Congo - Photographer C. Lamote - Ivy's Albums

In most African communities today, scarification can only be found on the elderly.



Scarification was imprinted on aesthetically pleasing sculpture. It is helpful when identifying early collected objects, such as the Dengense figure above left, or the Chokwe Chihongo mask, above right. The man in the centre image with filed teeth, sports the tribally specific Chokwe chingelyengelye cross on his forehead, as does the mask.



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Facial Scarification


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African Body Scarification


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Scarification of the Torso


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African Back Scarification


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Bwaka Woman -  Photographer Casimir Zagourski

The End




Visit our Scarification - Piercing - Stretching - Filing - Mutilation and Cranial Deformation pages.






Galerie Ezakwantu

Southern African Tribal Art - African Art 


Central and Southern African Tribal Art


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