Skin Deep

“The absence of flaw in beauty is itself a flaw.” Henry Havelock Ellis, 1859-1939 (psychologist and writer)

In Africa the concept of beauty varies considerably. Hairstyles, combs and facial markings express cultural background and political status. The body is used for both male and female beautification, either in the form of scarification, painting or applied ornamentation such as beadwork.

Paint and dyes are often applied to the skin to form patterns and motifs which have special significance. The tattoo, or tatau, has often had negative associations in the West but is gradually becoming recognised as an art form. Tattooing has its roots in prehistory, but modern tattooing is influenced by Asian and Pacific island traditions. Such permanent body markings are considered a form of cultural heritage and clothing.

Page from Derry's fashion brochure, 1956

Some forms of body modification, such as enlarging the ears, take place around the world but are still frowned upon in the West.