Used as a form of initiation into adulthood and a sign of beauty or membership of a specific clan, scarification is a way for tribes to wear their identities on their faces.
The ceremony is a process of initiation and is of great social importance as the rites of the ritual have special symbolic meanings and pick and individual out as being from a certain village.
For centuries in parts of Africa, such body-marking shows a person’s tribal identity, which some believe connects them to their ancestors.
These marks are made on the skin using stones, razors, glass or knives to permanently etch decoration and drawings onto the skin as ancient African ‘tattoos’.
In Papua New Guinea some men cut their skin to look like crocodiles to represent their ‘crocodile spirit’, creating a rippled scarring to resemble the reptile’s scaly skin.
The body art can also involve branding designs into the skin which can signify belonging to a particular tribe, family or religion.
Body marking has been used for centuries in parts of Africa to indicate a person’s tribal heritage and connect them to their cultural history
Scarification is becoming less common but some tribal members still want to carry the marks of their ancestors and keep the tradition alive
The Houeda ethnic group is one of a number of tribes in Benin, West Africa, which believes that scarring children, usually on their faces, will connect them with their ancestors
The patterns are often similar to the designs on the walls of local buildings. But the practice is dying out because in urban areas, such as the city of Cotonou and Porto-Novo, people with scars can be judged and regarded as savages
After the ceremony the children are given new names, their hair is shaved off and they are taken to a convent where an oracle will try to communicate with previous generations
Each ethnic group in Benin has its own distinct scarring patterns and can identify each other based on the intricate lines and marks etched into the face and head
Vince Heminson, a writer and filmmaker who has studied body modification, told National Geographic: ‘Scarification almost always happens in a culture where there is so much melanin in skin that it would be difficult to see a tattoo’
Neighbouring Nigeria has seen some states ban the practice on all children over fears it is against the rights of young people
Some cuts are on the tribe member’s face, others have cuts on their backs and stomachs when they reach puberty to show their courage
Many have abandoned the traditional ancient practice of scarification because they believe there are other ways to celebrate their heritage, such as clothing, language, dancing and religion
Some tribesman are now not letting their children be cut over fears for HIV and AIDS. Medical advice has warned sterile surgical instruments should be used but tribal chiefs often refuse
A woman from Burkina Faso told photographer Joana Choumali: ‘When I was ten I asked for them [scars]. I wanted to be like my brothers and sisters, and to show that I am courageous’
Children as young as a week old can be subject to the ancient ritual that sees their face, head and body permanently marked
Some of the spiritual leaders performing the ritual use the same tools every time, raising fears over the transmission of blood-born infections such as tetanus and HIV
Followers of the custom of scarification place superficial incisions on their skin, using stones, razors, glass or knives, permanently decorating the body to communicates many different cultural expressions
Most Benin tribe-members are around the age of eight when they go through the ritual of scarification and are marked by a tribal elder with a razor
If a child dies before he or she is able to receive their traditional tribal markings, they are not buried in the village cemetery because they are considered ‘not Betamarribe’ in the eyes of their ancestors
The scarification ritual can be very painful and is often performed on children aged eight and ten as part of a naming ceremony
The instruments used to carry out scarification can vary from razors, to pieces of glass or knives. Some have abandoned the practice for fears of the spread of diseases
Benin is the birthplace of the vodun religion, which gave rise to the word ‘voodoo’ in West Africa and is connected to the scarification ritual still practised is some parts of the region
The scarification of human skin is a longstanding practice that has played a significant role in cultural consciousness and community-building, says the photographer, Jean-Michel Clajot
Some tribal elders from the Betamarribe tribe in Benin, also known as Somba or the Tammari people, say that a child without markings is ‘not human’
Cuts and scarring can symbolise identity in a number of different ways, some identity status within the community, the passage into adulthood or a connection to a spiritual or religious group
Scarification is used as a form of initiation into adulthood, beauty and a sign of a village, tribe, or clan and follows the complex biological process of ‘wound healing’
The ceremony of scarification is a process of initiation is of great social importance and the rites of the ritual have special symbolic meanings
During wars tribes would recognise each other by their facial scars and therefore avoid killing a friends as opposed to a foe
Some tribe members are revered in their village for the status their scars give them, but in expanding cities they feel embarrassed by the marks
Benin was formerly known as Dahomey, and was a self-governing colony of the French empire from 1892 and 1960 after its influence in the region declined with the abolition of the slave trade