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Lip Plating, Ethiopia Teeth Chiseling, Indonesia
Tattooing of Gums, Senegal - Terrific Traditions
4140    Dibyendu Banerjee    11/05/2019

It may sound absurd, but it is a fact that instead of teeth whitening, the women of Senegal in West Africa are keen to achieve beautiful smiles by tattooing their gums black. Over the years they are following the painful process, as they believe that dark tattooed gums make them more attractive to the opposite sex. They believe that, the tattoo accentuates the teeth, making the women's smiles brighter and more prominent. Apart from that it is also believed to boost dental health and eliminate bad breath. The women in Senegal inherited the painful custom of beautification from their ancestors and believe sincerely that the dark gums will help the eligible women to get their husbands. A sweet smile with tattooed gums and white teeth attracts men, they believe.

The beginning of black gum
The beginning of the process

Though the process is immensely painful, it is very much popular especially in small towns and villages like Thies, in Senegal. Internationally the procedure of tattooing the gums was not well known, till a video became viral showing a woman called Mariéme who goes under the needle. The video depicted that the woman who administered the tattoo did it in the backyard of her home, not in any parlour and she does not do the job for earning money, but for the love of it. She charges just a token money, little over $1 for her work and believes that black-tattooed gums are the best solution for any dental problem, like bleeding gum and foul smell, as well as to achieve a more attractive smile.

black gum
black gum
The result

According to the gum tattoo-artist, to make the gums black, she uses a black mixture, which is obtained by burning oil and Shea butter. The black jelly is generously applied to the gums of the customer, as she places her head on the lap of the beautician. After the application of the mixture, a sharp needle-like instrument is repeatedly poked into the gums of the customer, to make room for the mixture to get in. Due to the administration of the black dye, the gums finally turn black. However, the customer has to suffer excruciating pain since the process is to be repeated, which is to be completed in seven layers. Seven layers were also planned for Marieme, the customer in the video. But, she refused to continue, as she began to struggle right from the beginning. Afterwards, she promised that she would never ever recommend this torture to anybody else. She also confessed that during the process, she thought that she would die, yet just tried to hang on. In the end, instead of seven, she got only four layers done and has no regrets for discontinuation of the process. However, she is happy, because now she has beautiful black gums.

Confession of Marieme
Confession of Mariéme

According to the woman doing the needlework, now a day less and less women are keen for tattooing the gums. Yet, some are still interested, especially those young women, who are interested to have a lover. She strongly maintains that women should not have red gums. A nice smile attracts men and for nice smiles you badly need black gums and white teeth.

Lip Plating, Ethiopia Teeth Chiseling, Indonesia
Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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