A few weeks ago, a friend sent me some pictures circulating on the internet showing body painting by nineteen-year-old Japanese artist student Chooo-San. She uses acrylic paint to transform herself into a mutant or cyborg. I was so intrigued that I had to find out more.
THE ORIGINS OF BODY ART
Body art is art made on, with, or consisting of the human body with painting, tattoos, piercings, branding, or scalpelling. Body painting is temporary, painted onto the human skin, and last for a day or two. Mehndi henna or temp tattoo and glitter tattoos may last a couple of weeks.
Tens of thousands of years ago, our early human ancestors used painting materials for cave paintings. Many scholars believe that before interior cave-decoration became a prehistoric fad, early humans used the same materials for painting their own bodies, primarily as camouflage for hunting and to defend themselves from predators. They certainly had many examples in nature to learn from.
Natural pigments, tree barks, plants, minerals, and clays were used; the colors and types of pigments depended on what was available in the immediate area. Different patterns, shapes, and colors have a different significance depending on the culture. Body painting became a way of expressing one's culture and identity.
According to fashionencyclopedia.com, body painting was traditionally used in many societies to signify a person's social status and/or religious beliefs. A temporary decoration, body paint lasted only a few days. In some cultures, both men and women painted their bodies only for important social occasions, while in others, people wore body paint every day as a uniform to show their social status.
TRIBAL BODY AND FACE PAINTINGNearly all tribal cultures practiced some form of body art. The practice still survives in its ancient forms among indigenous peoples in many countries. While it is done primarily for ceremonial purposes (and tourism), it also serves to preserve elements of the culture and identity in an expanding world. Art makes us different.
Julius Caesar wrote that the Britanni warriors or Picts (which means painted ones in Latin) colored their bodies blue when going into battle.