Girls as young as 12 taking part in scarification rituals which see them sliced with razor blades


( The scars create patterns and are seen as highly desirable in their culture


Girls as young as 12 are being sliced with razor blades as part of a traditional scarification ceremony in Ethiopia.

The youngster remained silent during the 10 minute ordeal, which saw her mother use a tool to pull at her daughter’s skin before cutting it with a razor.

Differing from the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation ( FGM ) which is practised in some African countries, scarifications focuses on other parts of the body.

It is intended to create patterns and designs which are considered beautiful and desirable in their culture.

Often the participants are volunteers, including the 12-year-old girl from the Surma tribe in the Omo valley.

Photographer Eric Lafforgue described the process, recalling “blood running, flies going into the wounds, under a hard sun.”

A tradition in the tribe, he said: “[She] did NOT say any word during the ten minutes ceremony, and did NOT show any pain.

“I asked her if it was not too hard to have her skin cut with a razor blade, and she answered that she was close to collapse!

“It was incredible as she did not show any sign of pain on her face. It would be a shame for the family she confessed.

“A girl's eagerness to tolerate pain is also an indication of her emotional maturity and willingness to bear children.

“The kid chooses to do it, nobody obliged her. Scarifications are a beauty sign in the tribes. This is the tradition in Surma tribe.”

Mr Lafforgue said children are told not to practice scarification any more, but men in the tribes say bare skin is “ugly”.

Some tribes purposefully agitate the wounds to make the scarring more prominent, sometimes using ash and tree matter to enhance their scars.

Across Ethiopia other tribes also practice scarification, with Bodi women using metal to scar their bodies, often producing coil patterns around their shoulders.

The Karrayyu tribe typically scar their cheeks to resemble cats, and in the Menit tribe women use stones to gauge their skins, leaving deep, discoloured scars.

Dassanech women from Omorate village scar their shoulders, and in the Mursi tribe scars were seen as a symbol of strength.

Not just Ethiopia, in neighbouring Sudan men from the Nuer tribe creates parallel lines on their chest.

In south Sudan Toposa women create geometric scars on their bellies once they are married.

And the Toposa men scar their chests, with the entire area covered only when they have killed an enemy.

Women from the Datoga tribe, in Tanzania, scar the skin around their eyes for beauty.

But recently health risks have arisen from the practice due to the sharing of blades which has led to the spread of Hepatitis and in some cases aids.

Some people are turning away from the practice for a variety of reasons, including religion, identification, judgement from others and negative connotations.




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