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Customizing the Body - The Art and Culture of Body Arts

Updated on August 28, 2011

What are body arts?

Body arts are of various types including Tattoos, body painting and face painting, piercing and even branding. Many of these art forms have been developed centuries back and are still followed as a part of religious or social customs or may be as an individual passion or a style statement.

Body modification

These are changes or alterations brought into our body parts deliberately. These may be done for religious or social causes or as style statement or for aesthetic reasons. These include

  • Multiple piercing of ear lobes
  • Surgical breast implants
  • Male circumcision
  • Female genital cutting
  • Castration
  • Scarification
  • Branding
  • Ear shaping
  • Body building


These body modifications can be harmful and life threatening. They can lead to disfiguration of body rather than beautifying them. But certain practices become controversial as they are inter related to religious and social customs.

weirdest, strangest, sickest and dumbest tattoos ever


This is done by inserting ink or dye into the layers of skin for ornamental purposes mainly in humans and in animals solely for identification. The concept of tattoo was developed centuries back among the tribes of Polynesia and Japan. Tattoo with Henna were popular in India from ancient time. Certain tattoos are believed to bring about fertility and attractiveness. Therefore the ancient Indian women wore them more commonly than men. The common Hindu symbol tattoos are the

  • Blooming lotus which represents happiness
  • Swastika which represents good luck
  • Dots which is believed to ward off evil spirits


The tribal tattoos are hand done using sharp sticks or bones. The tattoo tradition still continues within the tribal community but is more in demand by the modern urban youths of India.

In modern times, tattoos are done with electric tattoo machines that insert ink with the help of needles. These must be properly sterilized and disposable to avoid the spreading of skin infections, AIDS, Tetanus, Hepatitis and Herpes as they come in contact with body fluids. Permanent tattoos can be removed with laser. 

Body painting and Face painting

These are also a form of body art but last only for few hours; they are only temporary. The painting of the face is called Face painting. These again evolved from the ancient tribal custom centuries back. In India, Kadakali is a dance form of Kerala which uses face paints on the performers who enact stories from the great Indian epics namely the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Their faces are painted with different colors depending on the character they enact. Evil characters like the demon king Ravan uses more black color than green while good characters like Ram have more green color on their faces. 

There are body painting festivals in Europe where professional and amateur body painters exhibit their talents.

Body piercing

Here, parts of the body are punctured to wear ornaments or rings by both the sexes. It can also be related to ancient social customs. In India, centuries back, men and women used to piece their ears. The women still pierce their noses and many parts of their ear lobes. In modern times, these have become more than style statements.


Scarification is the treatment of the skin with fire thereby producing scars or in short deliberate removal of dermis. These have roots from ancient tribal practices. These are still followed by the tribes in Africa. Scarified skin is more evident on a black skin than on a white. Some African tribes believe that producing scars on a newborn can help prevent eye illness. This was done on African slaves to identify or demarcate them. These are now popular in the West.


It is a form of Scarification. The skin is burned to make permanent scars or burns. These were done on the slaves as a punishment; preferred over caning. Branding as a form of punishment has now been abolished. Branding can have also religious context; the Vaishnava sect of Hinduism sees branding as a means to purify one’s soul, mind and body. 

Body Modications...Tattoos And Piercings.

HubMob Weekly Topic: Body art

HubMob Weekly Topic: Body art
HubMob Weekly Topic: Body art


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    • LensMan999 profile image

      LensMan999 4 years ago from Trans-Neptunian region

      @Mutiny92 -3D Tattoos going to be the trend in 2013

    • profile image

      customastrocharts 7 years ago

      Wicked cool beans, I love it!

    • Mutiny92 profile image

      Mutiny92 7 years ago from Arlington, VA

      Wow-Those 3D tatoos look GREAT!

    • LensMan999 profile image

      LensMan999 8 years ago from Trans-Neptunian region

      Thanks for reading ,Princessa !

      Lisa ,Thanks for the nice comment!

    • profile image

      Lisa 8 years ago

      I am wondering where I can get help to decipher the tribe

      who left me with scarified designs...

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 8 years ago from France

      Welcome to the HubMob, very interesting hub, that last video is just awesome!