History of Ear Gauging in Tribal Civilizations

A study of the history of ear gauging indicates the practice to be as old as recorded human history. For males, this form of ear piercing has been a symbol of status, while for women, in addition to being used as means of bodily decoration, it has also been employed to signify the attainment of womanhood.

Ear gauging, which is also referred to as ear stretching, is the stretching of ear lobe piercings to larger diameters than that of the original piercing. It is a form of body enhancement or beautification that many young western people adopt to look ‘different’ from the usual crowd. However, this is not a modern form of body piercing, since it has been around for as long as archaeological records exist.

In many cases, ear gauging has been used historically to indicate the standing of members of a specific tribe, and in many respects this is still the situation today. Stretched piercings have been, and still are, a reflection on the individual’s sexual capability and also their superiority over other males in the tribe. The larger the stretching, the more important the individual.

Otzi the Iceman is a prime example of mummies known to have stretched ears. This is the earliest known example of ear gauging, Otzi having 7-11 mm ear piercings during 3300 BC. It has been suggested that the stretching of the ears noted in depictions of Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha, may have been caused by the weight of the gold jewelry he wore, but this is mere supposition.

It is supported, however, by the fact that the Masai tribe of Kenya and the Lahu and Karen-Paduang people of Thailand use this ‘gravity’ technique to stretch their piercings. Let us have a look at the ear gauging practices used today by various cultures.

A. Mursi Tribal Women

The Mursi is an Ethiopian tribe where the women are obliged to wear plates in their gauged ears and on their bottom lip. About a year prior to her marriage, or at about 15 years of age, a Mursi girl’s lip will be pierced by her mother and a wooden peg pushed through the incision.

Once healed, the peg is changed for a larger diameter one. Eventually, the peg is replaced by a plate of clay or wood, and this plate is successively changed for larger diameter ones until the required diameter is attained – from around 8 – 22 cm in diameter (3 – 9 inches). Once these plates have been secured, she receives a higher degree of respect than those without them, and is known as a ‘Bhansanai’.

These lip and ear plates need not be worn permanently, but are an expected adornment during special occasions such as during weddings and other celebrations, and when they serve food to men. Today, young women can generally make their own decision as to whether or not they follow this tradition.

B. The Masai People of Kenya

The practice of ear gauging has been common among Masai men and women for thousands of years. In recent years, however, most young men have not been following this custom, although you will still find many Masai women wearing ear decorations made from stones, cross-cut elephant tusks, wood and animal bones.

The original piercing is carried out using a thorn, sharpened twig or a sharp knife point. Once healed, ear gauging is then carried out by wearing increasingly heavy jewellery that pulls the lobe down and stretches the piercing. This is the traditional way of gauging ears in the more primitive cultures, although many Masai today will use proper ear gauging techniques, such as their own versions of insertion tapers or taper spikes. Beads are a common form of ornamentation, although plugs made from bone, tusks and wood are also used.

C. The African Fulani Tribe

Fulani women from Nigeria and Central Africa tend to use smaller diameter ear gauges, and decorate them using large gold domes or hoops carrying earrings. A Fulani child will have her ears pierced at around 3 years old, although they may not be stretched until she is older. The gauges used by Fulani women are relatively small compared to the Masai and Mursi, although the jewellery can be larger.

D. Asian Hill Tribes

Of the various hill tribes, the only two known to practice ear gauging are the Lahu from Thailand, and the Karen-Padaung (Longnecks) from Myanmar (Burma) and also the Phrae province in Thailand. That latter tribe are best known for their neck rings, offering the appearance of long necks, but both cultures believe the ear to be sacred and the more jewellery they can wear on the better. By gauging their ears, they are able to wear the maximum amount of jewellery they believe possible.

E. Mexican and Central American Civilizations

In Mayan and Aztec society, ear gauging was regarded as desirable for males. There are many Mayan representations of men with flares and ear plugs (ear spools) in gauged ears, and the material used was indicative of the social standing of the wearer. Jade ear plugs were worn by the higher classes, while the rest would use bone, stone, wood and other materials. In central Mexico, the craftsmanship of the Aztecs is evident in the ear gauging plugs and ornaments of gold and silver, though the lower classes would adorn their stretches earlobes with shells, copper and wood among many other imaginative materials.

Ear gauging has been carried out worldwide, and among other notable areas involved in this practice are Japan, where the Ainu used ear jewellery made from shells, bone and a ball and ring known as Ninkari. There are many other cultures worldwide where ear gauging was a part of their life, and even today many people regard ear stretching as a fashion statement and a way of expressing their own personality and individuality.

The History of Mixed Media Art

Mixed media art is a kind of artwork in which several mediums are employed. There’s an important difference between “mixed-media” artworks and “multimedia art”. Mixed media mean a work of visual art that mixes numerous traditionally unique visual art media. To provide an example, a work on canvas that mixes paint, ink, as well as collage can appropriately be called a “mixed media” work – but not a work of “multimedia art.” The term multimedia art indicates a broader range than mixed media, merging visual art with non-visual materials (including recorded sound, for example) or with elements of the other arts (such as literature, drama, dance, motion graphics, music, or interactivity).

What we all know nowadays as mixed media art began during the early twentieth century, when artists looking for a substitute for what they saw as hidebound academicism started including things and pictures that were not regarded as art materials in their works. Examples of everyday materials being included in ceremonial or aesthetic objects could be found dating back to prehistory, however, these were produced with different motives, and served quite a distinct social purpose compared to the objects all of us refer to as “art.”

Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Painting (May 1912) is often considered the 1st modern collage, it is actually an assemblage of oil paint, oil cloth, pasted paper, as well as rope, turning it into a low-relief, three-dimensional work. The first collages constructed solely of paper, on the other hand, were made by Braque in the summertime of 1912, when he utilized wood-grained wallpaper in a series of charcoal drawings. After a brief lull in collage activity, the 1920s’ art scene experienced the arrival of German dada artist Kurt Schwitters’s remarkable array of personal expressions accomplished in collage and assemblage. He fixed everyday found papers as well as things of all types to canvas, paper, and board supports, giving them another and most likely more notable life.

In the 1930s, Henri Matisse utilized cut-paper shapes as preparatory work for commissioned items to be executed in some other media. But in 1947, he published a small collection of twenty color plates of his cutout designs. Joseph Cornell’s work in stage like boxed assemblages during the early 1940s began the abstract expressionists’ search for collage as an art form. The liberty of expression engendered by means of collage explorations headed directly to the assemblages, constructions, and also combine paintings of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Jean Dubuffet, and Ellsworth Kelly, as well as to their experimental work in the 1950s as well as 60′s. And their particular work in turn created the conditions for the installations, appropriations, settings, and new object works of the eighties and 1990′s.

Mixed media art, drawing from the efforts of early artists, made mixed media an accessible art form for both skilled and novice artists. Assemblage as well as collage can be obtained combined with acrylic and watercolor painting, rubber-stamped art, sculpture as well as altered books. Fibers, torn papers, inks, glitter plus beads are discovering their way into works of fine art as well as commercial items such as greeting cards and quilts. The near future of mixed media, it appears, is bound just by the creativity of artists and whatever they could possibly get their hands on.

Tragus and Anti-Tragus Piercings

Tragus piercings and anti-tragus piercings are becoming increasingly popular – in fact, tragus piercings are now one of the most common ear piercings around. Ear piercings are the most familiar form of Body piercings and the tragus and anti-tragus are fresh expressions of the mundane ear lobe piercings.

The tragus is a thick little piece of cartilage that juts out from the ear canal. To get an understanding of the exact location of the tragus, place a finger by the outer corner of your eye. From this point, trace the finger back, in a straight line, until you touch your ear. The first piece of your ear you will feel is your tragus. You should be able to grasp this little nub between your fingers – this is where the piercing will go through.

There are all sorts of misconceptions about the tragus. Some people may try to tell you that piercing your tragus will affect your balance – that is simply not true. Your balance is affected by fluids in your ear drums, which are located deep within your ears, and are far away from any pierce-able surface. The tragus does not have anything to do with your balance, so don’t be fooled by uneducated people who might try and tell you otherwise. In fact, the only purpose a tragus has is to hold your headphones (such as the standard iPod headphones) securely in your ears; and once pierced, there are thousands of headphones to choose from which will not irritate your piercing. Honestly, the tragus has nothing to do with your ear, your hearing, or your balance. It is just a flap of cartilage – perhaps if humans developed sonar and echo-location the tragus would be useful (super developed traguses help bats use sonar, for example) – but alas, on our species, it’s just a surface begging to get pierced!

The tragus is recommended to be pierced with a captive bead ring, but a barbell will suffice. The reason rings are almost always preferred for the initial piercing as opposed to barbells is because rings tend to heal quicker, better, and more securely. Once healed, you can use any type of jewelry, even typical jewelry normally reserved for ear lobes. Your piercer will help you choose which gage is right for you (and by the way, expanding the tragus is not unheard of, but rare), mark the location on your ear, and push the needle right through. Some piercers may put a cork behind the tragus to “catch” the needle, some piercers just use clamps to aid the needle through, and yet others just use their hands. Each piercer is different, so they will pierce according to their style. Clamps are the most common method, and many people report that the actually clamping to secure the skin hurts more than the piercing! The tragus piercing should be painless – there aren’t a lot of nerves there – but some people do feel slight and temporary pain. Because it is so close to the ear, some people even say they hear a little “pop!” sound as the needle pushes through. Should you hear a little noise, it’s nothing to be concerned about. Once the needle is in, the jewelry is slid into place and secured, and you are done! The whole process, from prep to finish, shouldn’t take more than five minutes.

The tragus does take a while to heal – sometimes up to a year to be fully and completely healed. Many people irritate their new piercing by placing their dirty cell phones up to their ear or by sleeping on the ear with the piercing. I suggest NOT doing either of these for at least the first six months. If your piercing does become infected (and it shouldn’t with proper aftercare), soak it in warm salt water, don’t touch it with your hands, and perhaps (using a q-tip) rub some diluted tea tree oil around the piercing. Never use any sort of rubbing alcohol, for this will irritate and scar your piercing. Your piercer will give you a complete rundown of what to expect and how to handle your new piercing though, so pay attention to their advice.

The Anti-Tragus is very similar to the tragus. It is pierced the same way, the aftercare is the same, and the healing time is the same too. To locate your anti-tragus, place a finger on your earlobe (generally where someone’s first ear piercing would be) and with your finger, draw a straight line up. The flap of cartilage you come to before the empty space is your anti-tragus. Your tragus and anti-tragus are located very close to each other, and the anti-tragus is just opposite of the tragus. Just like the other piercing, this piercing does not affect your hearing or balance. The anti-tragus is rarer than the tragus, mostly because many people don’t think they can get this area pierced, but it can be pierced and it does look great when healed. Curved Barbells and captive ring beads are used most frequently in these piercings.

If you are considering an anti-tragus or tragus piercings, be sure to use a licensed professional. Once it is fully healed, the way your ornament or decorate the piercing is completely up to you, and the jewelry possibilities are endless!

Do’s and Don’ts When Going for Ear Stretching for the First Time

If done the wrong way, ear stretching can give you unbearable pain, and can even kill your ears, (yes, literally!). Ear stretching is the latest trend, in which, one punctures and stretches one’s ear lobes, to an extreme level, wears a stylish carved jewelry (as plugs and tunnels) in the stretched part. Some traditionalists believe that it is irksome or disturbing, but gauged ears look pretty appealing and attractive. However, this body art should be done very carefully. If you are going to stretch your ear lobes for the first time, here are a few Dos and Don’ts to follow. But before we proceed to that, let us have a look at some consideration, before you step into a professional body art workshop -

There’s no looking back! When you get your earlobes stretched, remember that it is a permanent fix, your old natural ears would never return. It is also true with piercing. Cosmetic surgery is the only possible repair for stretched ears. So, before you go for ear stretching, you should make up your mind, and decide, if you really want this or not.

Consult a renowned body art center – If some accident occurs, because of the mishandling or the lack of experience of the piercer, you wouldn’t be able to get your old natural ears back. To avoid such (and any) mishaps, visiting a professional piercer is always advisable.

Dos and Don’ts

Being a newcomer to the ear stretching fashion, there must be running around some rumors, in your mind, which you heard from someone, or one of the friends or relatives of someone. Well, if you have decided to stretch your earlobes, you should approach with a positive frame of mind. Here are some clear suggestions or Dos and Don’ts -

Suggested Material – Surgical stainless steel is considered as the best material for ear plugs or body art jewelries, for the first timers. After the stretching is healed, you can wear charms made up of any material.

Recommended Size – ‘Slow and steady wins the race’ is one of the most heard stories of all time. When stretching your ears for the first time, you can use the tapers starting from 14G to 18G, based on the structuring of your ears and lobes.

Reducing the Pain – There are a number of solutions – like composition of Karanja oil and Jojoba Oil – which you can apply while inserting the drill through your lobes. These are naturally medicated oils that lower the pain during the procedure, and help healing the skin more quickly. You should never use any water base solution while stretching your earlobes.

Bleeding - If it bleeds, you should stop, and wait for the injury to recover completely. Ideally, there are very less chances of bleeding, but when it happens, you should discontinue it for a while.