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  • Lorraine Johnson

[87] The Art Of Temptation

Under the shade of tall, swaying coconut trees in the far away town of Buzi in Sofala, in December 1994, a woman—an elder—Macore Matchakawa—spoke. She was born strong and beautiful in Hamamba, during a time when women would adorn their body with pika—tattoos—to become more alluring, tempting a man into marriage. It was believed that if a woman did not embellish her skin with pika she would be considered ugly and remain unmarried—alone without children to the end of her time.

Macore would use a needle to design marks on her skin, then pour a mix of ashes scooped up from the remnants of a coal fire and moistened by water to stop the bleeding. The ash would remain on the cuts for a full day then washed off ceremoniously with water—turning scars into pikas by the beautifying ash color left behind. Some women, she said, even filed one tooth to a fine point believing they would be even more enchanting and attract their future husband.

And as we sat under the swaying trees in this far away town of Buzi, a place forced by the war—nine years before—to become her "home," she spoke about today—the today of 1994—when young girls and women 'paint' their faces and wear earrings to do the same. And Macore relished in the power of pika and the practices of yesterday. And I too thought—and think—about the context of the day and the art of tattoos—that now know no gender, no limitations, no certain places—adding politics and poetry, freedom and rebellion, to the abstraction, patterns and allurement of the traditional power of pika.


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