In the whole history of humanity, people have decorated themselves - one way or another with clothing, jewellery, tattoos, piercing, scars, permanent changes of the bone structure, plastic surgery - and by painting the body. Such decoration is known as Body Art, simply meaning the art made on the human body. In the past, body adornment was seen as an indication of membership in a unique section of society. Now however, piercing and tattoos are common in all lifestyles and all strata of society.
The practice of body adornment has roots reaching back at least 30,000 years. Evidence at archaeological sites in Africa has uncovered forms of body modification, including flesh permanently marked by either a knife or tattoo needle and elongated earlobes and necks. The history of body art is rich in older civilizations, as illustrated by the Burmese women who traditionally wear brass rings to elongate their necks. The tradition says, the longer the neck, the wiser and more beautiful the woman. Not only did cultural traditions influence people, but also religious institutions had an even stronger bearing. Many people illustrate confirmation of and devotion to their religions by marking their bodies.
A prominent example of this is the Judaic custom of circumcision. Pilgrims of Coptic, Armenian, Abyssinian, Syrian and Russian descent received tattoos to observe their journey to the Holy Land. Tattoos also were used as symbols of passage to a new level of spiritual existence.
While many cultures and religions embraced body art as statements of devotion or status, some forbid it. For instance, the Koran, the holy book of Islam, forbids marking the body and the Christian Bible associates body markings with sin, as shown in the story of Cain. Attempts to eradicate body-marking practices were numerous. Pope Hadrian I decreed a ban on tattooing in 787 A.D. and Constantine prohibited tattooing, for it was seen as altering God`s work. The Puritans of the New England colonies associated body markings with witchcraft.
Even during the punk movement and surge of anti-government feelings, body art was seen as taboo and was restricted to a small population. Through the influence of music and cultural traditions, the idea of body piercing and tattooing became much more accepted. As a result, the presence of body art in today`s society is strong and growing. Body art has now saturated into the older generation as well. The variation in the audience has created a rapid increase in the popularity of body art. Most importantly, the influence of music and even exotic cultures culminates in the status of young individuals piercing or tattooing almost anything.
Indians, for centuries, have used the human body as a medium of art and religious expression. Sometimes people decorate themselves to be more beautiful in the eyes of others, sometimes to scare enemies, and sometimes to tell a story. Many of these forms such as the Nama (daily body paintings), Vibhuti (sacred ash) and the Mangalya (the red dot worn by Indian women) have origins in the Hindu rituals.
Improved technology and interest in tattooing as a legitimate art form created an increase in clientele. Now suburban youth, including high-class teenagers can be seen with body piercings. This transition serves as an ideal illustration of how body art has seeped into all the regions of society. What is even more fascinating is how these vary different groups are motivated to do the same thing.
The past five years have seen navel piercings becoming typical among teenagers and college students, while tongue piercings have also become popular. In addition, tattoos have become popular among young adults. College fraternities may require members to be tattooed or pierced as a sign of their loyalty. Youth gangs use the same reasoning to motivate their members to get a tattoo or piercing. Individualism and free expression reign today as important concepts through which people feel comfortable conveying ideas. Body piercing and tattoos are mediums, which allow individuals to convey these ideas in a physical manner. Thus, the various forms of body art are given below:
Tattooing is one of the oldest forms of body art. The drive to decorate and adorn is essentially a human characteristic and is something that people have always done. For many people, the designs and symbols of adornment can hold great meaning. Similar designs are found across cultures but their meaning can be significantly different. Within cultures, the meaning of certain designs can change across time.
Body piercing is a more widespread practice than the other forms of body art addressed in the world. Ear piercing and nose piercing are especially commonplace among many different cultures. Many parts of the body can be pierced and there is a great array of jewellery associated with piercing.
Of all the forms of body art, body painting is the most temporary. Many designs painted on the body are specific to a certain event, or are used to mark a particular occasion. Temporary transformation allows an individual to create a different short-term identity, whereas the permanent forms of body art mark a person forever and are very costly and difficult to remove.
Tattoos and piercing are hot and happening today with more and more youngsters getting tattoos done on the body and getting various parts of their body pierced. Body Art includes both temporary and permanent ways of modifying and adorning bodies.