Body Painting People in Africa have been decorating their bodies with paint for thousands of years, and some cultures continue this tradition to this day. Body painting is one of the oldest art forms in Africa, and early evidence of its beginnings date back 4,000–7,000 years. In Chad, cave paintings have been found of the Niola Doa, or “Beautiful Ladies,” who are decorated in body paint from head to toe. Among some cultures in Africa, a human being’s skin is regarded as a blank canvas that can, and should, be decorated. Body painting can be used to represent a person’s social status or religious beliefs. It was first used to contact the spirit world, to distinguish between those who were tribe members and those who were enemies, or to attract the opposite sex. Some cultures use body paint only for important social occasions, but some cultures use body paint every day to signify individuals’ social status. Still other cultures have abandoned the social and religious significance of body painting and participate in decorating their bodies merely as a show for tourists, as a way to make a living in the modern world. The colors that are used in body painting vary from tribe to tribe. The kinds of materials that are used also vary, and can include chalk, ash, fruit, or sap to make

Two boys from the Karo tribe paint their faces.


drawing and painting

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