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Project June 26, 2012

Between the Lines: Facial Tattoos and the Chaouia


Media file: tumblr_m5y2f2NEDK1rwyz4no1_1280.jpg
Image by Yasmin Bendaas. Algeria, 2012.

Sepia-tinted photos of over 50 years ago show the facial tattoos of women from indigenous populations in Algeria. But documentation of these women has faded like the aged photographs. In Algeria today the actual practice of facial tattooing is disappearing as it is found solely among an older generation.

One particular indigenous group losing this cultural marker is the Chaouia of the Aurès Mountains in northeastern Algeria. The once prevalent tattoos comprised of lines and dots found on foreheads, chins, and cheeks of women will no longer be seen among the Chaouia in the near future, while the understanding of their symbolic meaning and contribution to identity will also wane with the loss of the practice. This project brings to light a practice that has been understudied and examines Islam's influence on the tradition.