Saturday, November 5, 2011

Male Ear Piercing in Africa

A woman without ear piercing doesn't exist in my culture. Perhaps I need to be less categorical. Members of my ethnic group, the Soninke, have spread to far reaching corners of the world. I have cousins in Szechuan China, Sydney Australia and God knows where. I heard of a relative in Norway. I wonder how he survives; our roots are in the sweltering Sahel Desert and it's hard enough for me to survive the "play-winter" in North Carolina.

Back to our subject, ear piercing is a must for women in my culture. By their seventh day of life, every little girl takes a trip to the mean lady who runs needles through their fleshy lobes  and the ones of rare little boys too.

So yes, I lied to fend off repeated request from one of my sons. I told him piercings are forbidden for boys in our culture. He knows the truth now and understands it. Boys' piercings have special meanings and are generally a single hole to one ear. They do not wear a ring in it.

The only pierced man in my family was my father's oldest brother. Sometime during early childhood, he was said to have been struck by a deadly disease. His ear was pierced as a ritual to cast maleficent spirits away. He lived well into his eighties sporting a pierced right lobe envied by the males in our family's younger generations.

Male piercing for most ethnic groups in West Africa is a sort of talisman performed only in critical situations to avert evil and sometimes to attract good fortune. It's never for looks!!!


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