Tribal or Cultural Face Painting has been used for many motives. For hunting, religious reasons, and military reasons (mainly as a method of camouflaging) or to scare ones enemy. Several tribal fighting techniques were calculated to strike terror. Some warriors entered battle naked except for a loin cloth, but their bodies were streaked in bizarre examples in red and black paint.
Decorating one’s face in various patterns and shapes has been a part of the cultural make-up of many societies since the beginning of time. Face painting is a common theme across cultures as divergent as the Indigenous American tribes in North America and various tribes in Africa and South America.
In native America, face painting has been used for artistic expression since ancient times. The art of transforming ourselves with make-up and masks is a universal phenomenon. Before we sought to vent our artistic impulse on a cave wall, we painted on our faces and bodies.
Patterns developed over time to signify a variety of cultural events and these, conveyed an emotional meaning that was attached to them. The wide range of patterns that a face painter can create, enhance the emotions and meaning of the cultural events. The patterns can be color specific or randomly geometric seemingly without any significance.
The shapes and colors convey a strong bond and meaning amongst people who have a face painting tradition. They are a connection to their past and carry a very strong cultural meaning in their lives.
Tattooing was practiced and known by the ancient Egyptians, starting during the Middle Kingdom. Geometric designs have been found tattooed on the chests, shoulders, arms, abdomens and thighs of the mummies of dancers and royal concubines
The reason tribes use face art to transform themselves may be varied. Sometimes they choose to do so as a part of a tribal ritual or at other times they do so to mark their status (as is the case with some aboriginal tribes), but the colorful and dynamic language of the face painting remains the same.
Raw materials used for tribal face painting
Tribal Societies, who still follow the ancient custom of face painting, choose the colors according to the available raw materials. In ancient times, only primary and locally available colors like red, blue, yellow or white were used. Sometimes by sprinkling dust or soft bird feathers, special effects were achieved.
Today most tribesmen choose to use branded face paints. Painting a face is an art, perhaps the very first art, going back to the origins of human culture. Artists paint bold, mask-like designs inspired by imagery from nature, imagination, and traditional masks. Unlike dance and music where the most charming modes and sweetest strains disappear before they are understood, painting captures the emotions and expressions and retains the impact for a long period.
Painting is essentially a combination of lines, forms, colors, tones, texture and space. It attempts to convey the spoken and unspoken expressions with the strokes of a brush.