Trip to Tanzania

This winter Tyler and some friends went to Tanzania. He’s a social anthropologist as well as a ModBlog reader, so while he was there he snapped some pictures of the widespread body modifications they saw. The guy on the left in the photo below is Kerry, their guide, who they met in Dar Es Salaam — almost all young men in Dar have similar Western-style tattoos.


On the way to Ngorongoro Crater they stopped near a small Maasai village where they were approached by the women in the pictures here who were hoping to sell them various trinkets. The piercing holes they have were made with iron knives, and with no sterilization, they’ve been increasingly vulnerable to bloodborne problems such as HIV/AIDS.


Tyler adds that you do see hi-tech though even in the deepest areas of the country, where they met the “cyber Maasai” above left in a quiet Zanzibari village using his earlobes to hold up his headphones. His bottom front teeth are also knocked out, a traditional body modification liked to breastfeeding and udder sucking. Thanks to Tyler for the pictures and background!

22 thoughts on “Trip to Tanzania

  1. I’m not gonna lie. Lately every time turn on my iPod I think about how badly I want my lobes to be bigger than the 7/16 I’m at right now so I can hold my headphones in them sometimes… I am a.) kind of weirded out that this picture showed up just when I was thinking about that exact thing, and b.) insanely jealous of that dude.

  2. natalie, I have a question. You said you live in Africa. I was wondering, do you see a lot of tattooing that isn’t indigenous or tribal in nature? The art in that first picture on his arm doesn’t look exactly traditionally African, so I’m curious about the prevalence of professional tattooists in a country with such a strong sense of tribal nature.

  3. i always thought the bottom teeth removal thing was in case of lock jaw (from tetanus), so some food could still pass through (possibly utter sucking, as you mentioned…) ???

  4. I recently visited Kenya and though I did not enter Tanzania, I did not find it to be the case that young men (or women) there were tattooed, western style or otherwise. Our guide said it was because the people are so dark. Maybe things are different in Dar Es Salaam

  5. I saw a guy on a bus about two years ago with his iPod earbuds strung through his stretched lobes like that…it was my inspiration to start stretching my lobes in the first place!

  6. I love the last pic’s outter-conch. It’s super clean.

    Do they have ‘modern’ tools (dermal punches, needle blades, etc) there?

    Cat: A gentleman I recently met (on the street) was chatting to me about his mods from Africa, it inclueded a lovely V forehead scar and his whole front bottom teeth removed.

    He explained to me that it was done on his 14th birthday in front of all the girls in his village and if he cried, they would all consider him to be weak. It was actually quite subtle.

    Shannon: ‘traditional body modification liked to breastfeeding and udder sucking’. Liked or linked?

  7. yeah, udder sucking! If you have many cows, why don’t you enjoy fresh milk from udder (also such words using instead of “udder”: bag, dug…)? But maasai do such things! 🙂

    2 jOELTRON: no, they dont use modern BodMod-tools 🙁 all their tools are homemade…
    I think “linked” :))

  8. i dont understand why you cant just suck with your lips and have your teeth not in the way?
    when do they knock these teeth out? i mean by the time those permanent teeth come in are they still breastfeeding?

  9. They actually knock out the bottom front teeth as children so when they get Tetanus and their jaw locks up, they can still be fed through a straw. I was just in Tanzania recently on a medical trip and even though most of the Maasai villages have access to vaccinations we still saw some of the younger children with their teeth knocked out. Although even with that the couple tribes we visited looked really healthy compared to past visits.

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