Among the Lobi tribe both boys and girls are painted to resemble skeletons during initiation. Although in our society we commonly associate skeletons with death, for the tribal people of Africa, Australia and Papua New Guinea the skeleton symbol indicates their ability of 'x-ray vision' which attests to the ability to see beyond, or into normal physical appearances.
The picture of the man below is a tribesman of the Suri of southern Ethiopia who has painted himself in preparation for a stick fight. The thought is that the make up makes him look more fierce.
The Kayan (Dayak) girl below shows her wealth with her gold teeth and heavy earrings that elongated her earlobes.
Turkana woman from Kenya with multiple piercings along the outside edge of her ear,
Kirdi women wear long inserts in their ears to protect them from 'evil exhalations' of supernatural forces.
The Suri women of southwest Ethiopia stretch their lower lip with large wood or clay plates. This starts six months before they are due to get married. The larger the stretching at marriage the more to be paid by the future husband and his family. The plates may only be taken out for private meals, sleep or in the company of just women. Another reason for these plates in some tribes is to lessen the chances of quarrels, if a person cant speak the whole day, fewer irritations will arise in the community.
Padang girls never take off their neck rings, they are exchanged for bigger, heavier coils at the age of twelve or fourteen which 'make her a woman'.
Scarification marks are done for many different reasons and vary from tribe to tribe. Here the Kaleri woman of Nigeria has marks on her pregnant belly, a process that begins when a girl reaches menarche. The younger girl has different markings as she is not pregnant yet.
Piercing of the nasal septum is a favourite among the tribal papua of New Guinea and is widespread amongst the men. The materials used for the inserts vary widely, ranging from boar tusks to twigs and rings made from mother of pearl.
In the contemporary west nostrils are more popularly pierced, the nasal septum piercing however is a lot more rare.
Kayah women wear heavy earrings that stretch their ear lobes considerably.
Kayaw women of Burma wear heavy metal rings around their legs, reshaping them, although they do not seem to hinder everyday movement.
Marubo men and women both pierce their nasal septum and thread strings of beads through the hole, they are regarded as means attunement as to the natural environment in which they live. They regard themselves as caretakers of this land however, not owners.
Among the upper-class Mangbetu of northern Zaire the art of shaping the cranium to create an elongated skull is practiced. It is an ancient human practice, but has survived into the twentieth century amongst this tribe. This is only possibly during the first half year of a baby being born whilst the skull bones have not yet fully formed. The child's head is wrapped tightly with thick cloth thus shaping the skull.
In some African tribes the teeth of tribesmen are filed down to points, this is usually seen as a form of cosmetic surgery to enhance ones beauty. However, researchers have now established that people with filed teeth, and in the absence of modern dental care are less prone to a number of diseases.
'Return of the Tribal' a celebration of body adornment, Rufus C. Camphausen