African Body Art - An Expression of Style, Beauty and Identity


African body art is used by men and women for various functions. They include but are not limited to festivals, feast celebrations, daily attire, beauty and force. They also differ from area to area.

The Maasai of East Africa apply body art on the celebration of the festival of the Moran or warrior. During this celebration, the warriors wear fabrics tied around their waists and beads around their chests. They also paint their legs white and their torsos with red ocher. They wear their hair in tiny braids also colored in red ocher.

The Turkana people from Kenya also use clothing, beadwork and hair styles to display the status of men and women. Their body art includes beads around the necks and hips of younger girls. Those entering puberty wear a special cloak made of leather and adorned with a band of white beads. The men trim the hair on their forehead to create a smooth hairline and so cover the rest of their hair with colored clay. They also express their own style by wearing ornaments made of shells and some wear ivory lip plugs.

The Ga'anda in Nigeria express their body art by giving young women scars at each crucial stage of their development into womanhood. A married woman displays a refined design of raised skin covering her stomach, back and shoulders.

Among the Kao people, boys learn to apply painted patterns on their bodies once they become young men. They are allowed to play with various colors and patterns which compliment their characteristics and aesthetic tastes.

In addition to the vibrant colors of African textiles and clothing, body art plays a substantial role in the expression of African style, beauty and identity of the different tribes.

So one can see that when its comes to the art of decorating the body, for the various tribes the choice varies and one can also say limitless and fascinating.

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