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Beginning many decades ago, body modification has been on a slow upward climb in terms of acceptance in Western culture.  But what about the forms of modification that were already in practice around the world, long before piercing and tattoo parlors started springing up in the U.S. and Europe?  In a way, the modern primitive movement is a revival of those practices.

We all know about piercing and tattooing, and have probably at least heard about dermal implants and scarification, but while watching a modern primitive performance, it suddenly becomes clear that “body modification” encompasses so much more than just these things.  The sculpting, shaping, adornment, and contortion of the human body in any way can also fall under this umbrella, and this is where primitivism finds a foothold.  Practices thought of as primitive in nature because they’ve been largely rejected by modern society become a part of the mix, including tribal rituals from all over the world.  The stretching of the human neck by use of rings, branding, implantation, the surgical sculpting of bones, corsetry, suspension, stretching of piercings, splitting of the tongue, and tribal tattooing, are just some of the things that are considered modification.

Fakir Musafar, often referred to as the father of the Modern Primitives movement, and himself having coined the term, is known for practicing these elements and more in a less traditional, shamanic sense.  Like many everyday people who have more mainstream piercings or body art, a core belief behind the primitive desired to be modified is simply that it’s transcendent to know what modification feels like. In a world that some see as fairly desensitized, experiencing any feeling completely, even pain, can be an expression of spiritualism. In another sense, the ability to sculpt our bodies into what we want them to be is one of things unique to human beings alone, and in many ways can be thought of as connecting us as a species.

As many once rejected practices find their way into the realm of societal acceptance, the primitives movement adopts more extreme forms of modification to remain outside the norm.  And although we might not all be running to the parlor to get a brand or a subdermal implant, the future of piercing art promises to be interesting and beautiful.

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