This Is The Last Generation Of Scarification In Africa
Joana Choumali’s series “Hââbré, The Last Generation” traces the final remnants of a dying tradition. The Kô language word means “writing,” but also stands for the practice of scarification that’s common to West Africa. Followers of the custom place superficial incisions on their skin, using stones, glass or knives, amounting to permanent body decoration that communicates a myriad of cultural expressions.
“Scarification almost always happens in a culture where there is so much melanin in skin that it would be difficult to see a tattoo,” Vince Hemingson, a writer and filmmaker who’s studied body-modification, explained to National Geographic. From Papua New Guinea to Ethiopia, the cuts and scarring can symbolize identity in a number of ways, whether it be status within a community, passage into adulthood or a connection to a spiritual group.
Choumali, based in Abidjan, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, encountered scarification as a child in the 1980s. “I remember Mr. Ekra, the driver who took me to school. Ekra had large scars that marked his face from temple to chin,” she recalled to HuffPost. “I found these fascinating geometric shapes. Ekra was not an exception. It was common to see people of various scars proudly display their social origins.”