Teeth sharpening, ear elongation, lip plates, nose studs, body scarring and giraffe necks – tribes and ethnic enclaves throughout the world have and continue to engage in incredible practices and rituals of body modification and body art for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Body modification or alteration is the deliberate altering of the human anatomy and it’s done for a variety of reasons: aesthetics, sexual enhancement, rites of passage, religious beliefs, to display group membership or affiliation, to create body art, and as self-expression.
Ritual modification is used in many tribes and ethnic groups in Africa, India, New Zealand, Australia, and South East Asia. It can be done by burning, cutting, or elongating parts of the body. It’s used to identify members of certain tribal families. It is also done for social and culture acceptance. And it’s not only done to the men of the tribes, but also to women and children as a coming of age rite of passage. In women, it’s seen as something beautiful, marks showing they are suitable mothers and wives.
Unfortunately body-mod tourism isn’t that rare. Although an influx of tourists has brought attention to cultural practices and money to impoverished tribes, some argue that it is deteriorating their way of life and cheapening their traditions and values.