Example research essay topic: A History Of Human Art And Body Painting – 605 words

If the impulse to create art is a defining sign of
humanity, the body may well have been the first
canvas. Alongside paintings on cave walls visited
by early people over 30,000 years ago, we find
handprints, ochre deposits, and ornaments. And
because the dead were often buried with valuable
possessions and provisions for the afterlife,
ancient burials reveal that people have been
tattooing, piercing, painting, and shaping their
bodies for millennia. All of the major forms of
body art known today appear in the ancient world,
and there is no evidence indicating a single place
of origin for particular techniques. Like people
today, ancient peoples used body art to express
identification with certain people and distinction
from others. Through body art, members of a group
could define the ideal person and highlight
differences between individuals and groups.

In the
past, as today, body art may have been a way of
communicating ideas about the afterlife and about
the place of the individual in the universe. A
variety of objects demonstrate the use of body art
in ancient times including an Egyptian fish-shaped
make-up palette from 3650 BC to 3300 BC; a painted
Greek vase from the fifth century BC depicting
tattooed Thracian women; a ceramic spout bottle
depicting the pierced face of a Moche warrior of
Peru from AD 100-700; and ceramics of painted
Nayarit women from 300 BC to 300 AD. As people
from one culture encounter people from another,
the diversity of body art can be a source of
inspiration, admiration, and imitation. Yet since
body art can so clearly signal cultural
differences, it can also be a way for people from
one culture to ostracize others. Body art links
the individual to a social group as an insider, by
asserting a shared body art language. Or it
distinguishes outsiders, by proclaiming a separate
identity.

This concept is explored in Identities,
which includes exhibits on tattooing in Japan, New
Zealand, the Marquesan Islands, and the
contemporary U.S, as well as African and Western
piercing. Body art practices can change rapidly,
reflecting larger shifts in society. Tattooing
virtually disappeared in Polynesia, partly due to
Western influence, but it is now being revived as
an assertion of ethnic identity. Western body art,
including everything from piercing to shoe styles,
also indicates a person’s social identity. In a
complex and diverse society, when certain types of
body art are shunned by some, they can become
signs of rebellion for others. But as
unfashionable body art practices become the norm,
they lose their power to define group membership
and instead express individual choices and life
experiences.

Body Painting Body painting can
transform a person into a spirit, a work of art,
another gender or even a map of a sacred place. It
can emphasize visual appeal, express allegiance or
provide a protective and empowering coating.
Protective body paints often feature in initiation
rituals, weddings and funerals — all occasions of
transition and of spiritual danger. People
everywhere adorn the living, and some also treat
the dead, with body paint. To make body paint,
pigments composed of plant extracts or mineral
clays and powders can be mixed with vegetable oil
or animal fat. Throughout history, the substances
used for body paint have been important trade
items. Ochre, camwood, cinnebar, and kaolin were
traded throughout Asia, Africa and Europe.

Henna,
used as a temporary skin dye, was widely traded in
the Muslim world along with patterns and designs
used to apply it. Commercially manufactured body
paints, now available in a wider palette, may be
adopted for their visual appeal but they rarely
take on the symbolic significance of natural
paints and dyes..

Research essay sample on A History Of Human Art And Body Painting