African body art is used by men and women for a variety of different purposes. They include but are not limited to festivals, feast celebrations, daily attire, beauty and strength. They also differ from region to region.
The Maasai people of East Africa use body art during the celebration of the festival of the Moran or warrior. During this celebration, the warriors wear cloths tied around their waists and beads around their chests. They also paint their legs white and their bodies with red ocher. They wear their hair in tiny braids also colored in red ocher.
The Turkana people of Kenya also use clothing, beadwork and hair styles to show the status of men and women. Their body art includes beads around the necks and hips of little girls. Those entering puberty wear a special cloak made of leather and adorned with a circle of white beads. The men shave the hair on their forehead to create a smooth hairline and then cover the rest of their hair with colored mud. They also express their personal style by wearing ornaments made of shells and some also wear ivory lip plugs.
The Ga’anda of Nigeria express their body art by giving girls scars at each important stage of their development into womanhood. A married woman displays a delicate design of raised skin covering her stomach, back and shoulders.
Among the Kao people, boys learn to apply painted patterns on their bodies when they become young men. They are allowed to play with different colors and designs which compliment their features and aesthetic tastes.
In addition to the vibrant colors of African textiles and clothing, body art plays a significant role in the expression of African style, beauty and identity of the various tribes.
So one can see that when its comes to the art of decorating the body, for the various tribes the choice varies and one can also say limitless and fascinating.