the paint for different colors and textures. Since the late nineteenth century, some tribes have begun to use commercially made paint, rather than make it from natu- rally occurring minerals. In Sudan, Nuba males paint and decorate their bodies from the ages of 17 to 30 to indicate what stage of life they are in. Among the Nuba peoples, the kinds of designs and colors that are used for body paint depend on strict religious and so- cial guidelines for each specific tribe. For example, the color white can be used for both boys and girls in religious rituals that initiate them into their society. Colors can then be added to the body paint repertoire according to the person’s stage of life. A young Nuba man can wear the colors red and white from the time that he is eight years old, but he has to wait until he is older to wear yellow paint. Further, he cannot wear the color black until he is initiated into the tribe as a full member. The young women of Nuba coat their bodies with red ocher and oil to signify the time between puberty and their first pregnancy. In Ethiopia, body painting is also used to celebrate each stage of a person’s life. Different colors and patterns are used, depending on the tribe. For example, the color red can signify happiness and life, but it can also signify death and sadness. The Omo River people use body chalk. The Himba Pastoralists from Namibia and the Maasai people of Kenya cover their bodies in red ocher. The color red symbol- izes the life force. In West Africa, voodoo worshipers cover their bodies in a white powder called kaolin that is considered “food for the gods.” It is meant to entice a deity to enter a person’s body and empower him or her.

Members of the Omo River people.



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