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Body Painting: Art or Nudity?

By Adeyemi Moronfolu

The body as we know is God’s artwork but with colours and creativity it is turned into a masterpiece. In Nigeria the most common type of body painting is the Henna Art or Henna tattoo. The Kanuris in Borno State makes use of it as special way of beautifying themselves by making use of Henna dye. Henna was once popular among women in the southern part of Nigeria. It is used during pre-marriage ceremony known as The night of henna.

Body paint or body painting has been a form of body decoration in many countries in Africa, which is radically different from tattoos or all other forms of body art. Body painting is more than art; it is a depiction of emotions using colour, it is an expression of freedom using art. To some tribes, it is cosmetics, while to other tribes, it is for religious practices. Body painting also takes shapes in the form of other painting such as face painting and Henna tattoos.

The body was always used for designation of social status of the person and his religious beliefs. Tribal body art could be put for a certain time, usually for one or two days. Some people decorated their bodies only for important public actions. At the same time, there were tribes, where paints are applied on body every day to show their social status.

Body painting is as old as Art itself as it has been in existence among some tribes in Africa, Asia, South America and the rest Skin was considered as pure canvas, which can be used for writing of pictures for long time in Africa. This opinion has still remained in this continent.

In the western world, body painting is art at its peak. It has grown more commercial, artists are now being employed professionally as body painters, there also galleries and exhibitions to display body paintings. Recently Nigerian lawyer turned Artist was employed by Beyonce to help do body painting artworks for her lemonade video. Body painting is also a powerful tool for gaining attention especially during protests yet at the same time it can be turned into disguise, for instance the military use body paint for camouflage.

Be it for fashion, art, celebration, festivals or ceremonies if you are going for body paint ensure it is done by a professional, you should know that body painting is time consuming, it is not unusual for a full body painting to take about 10 to 12 hours. Most traditional makeup techniques are incredibly messy and time consuming, also ensure that only high quality graded materials and paints are used on your body The main accessories are brushes, sponge, alcohol, palette, a bottle of water and, of course, body colours, which sell in specialized shops. Ensure that the colours used aren't toxic and safe.

Before work, be convinced that you have an idea of what you want to draw and the concept that you want to depict. Make several sketches. Pressure on skin has to be moderate, but not too light as it can have effect of tickling. Body painting doesn’t have to be faithful if you notice you are having allergies to some of the materials stop immediately, for those with a wounds and broken skins applying foreign colours and objects to the open skin is surely not a good idea.

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