The by far most concisely indicator that you are wandering around Benin are the scars across the people´s faces.
Too embarrassing to tell that I thought those scars are the left over from battles, machetes fights or civil wars. Completely wrong!
Anyway, now I did some research and want to share the result why so many people in Benin have serious (sometimes disturbing, scary and inflamed) scars across their face.
Body marking has been used for centuries in parts of Africa to indicate a person's tribal heritage.
*Some ethnic groups, for example the Houeda, believes that scarring children on their face will connect them with their ancestors.
*Ash is used to mark the place where the incisions are to be made and then it takes a few seconds to make the cut.
*The skin is cleaned with medicinal plants and gin beforehand. Charcoal is also put on the wounds to help them heal.
*They always use the same knife, ignoring official advice to use new sterile blades for each person, to avoid the risk of transmitting blood-borne infections such as tetanus and HIV.
*But scarring is becoming less popular. An increasing number of families take part in just the first stage of the ceremony, stopping before the incisions are made.
*Scars are part of the identity. The design of scars varies from person to person. The pattern of scars is also identifying criteria on ID cards in Benin.
*Scars should convey the message: "Beware, there is pain in this world, and you will feel pain in your life. But the pain will stop, if you can endure."
*Scarring is used among some tribes as a spiritual vaccination against diseases. You cut the skin and you dripple some medicine inside the wound.