Magazine article Geographical

The Unkindest Cut?

Magazine article Geographical

The Unkindest Cut?

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This month, our photostory (page 22) features images of traditional scarification in the West African nation of Benin. The photographs are part of a long-term project being carried out by Belgian photographer Jean-Michel Clajot.

The production of this piece involved a certain amount of soul-searching on my part. While the images themselves are very striking and the subject matter fascinating, I was unsure how I felt about running them. Included within the collection that Jean-Michel sent were some rather graphic images of the actual scarification of young children, images that I personally found quite upsetting. I decided against running any of these in the story, even though I realised that I risked being accused of a sort of visual censorship in shying away from the brutal reality of how these marks are made.

Those images made me think about the question of whether or not scarification is a legitimate traditional cultural phenomenon or simply a creel throwback to less enlightened times. …

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