(un)adorned - Piercing

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The piercing of the skin with pins and plugs of different materials was and is a common practice in many parts of the world: For the Moche in Peru, plugs in the ears mark one’s social status; the relatives of Makonde in Mozambique and Tanzania wear lip and ear plates as ornaments; with tongue piercings, the Mexican Mayan expresses their willingness to sacrifice themselves to the gods. Facial and body jewelry is not only worn as a sign of belonging to a group or community, or to denote gender, age and social status, but also serves as a transformation. In this manner, the ethnologist Claude Levi-Strauss claimed that piercings were used to overcome the contrast between life and death through hard and enduring substances such as metal or wood. The wearing of jewelry is therefore regarded as a giver of life.

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© Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Foto: Mo Zaboli

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Throughout Europe, the earring is a piercing that is often no longer perceived as such. This applies especially to the woman's earring, which has been socially established for centuries. The men's earring, on the other hand, received varied recognition in Europe: the Bavarian King Maximilian I Joseph (1756-1825) bore one with pride; during National Socialism, it was regarded as "un-German"; and for certain occupational groups it was used as a distinguishing feature (for example, the Appenzeller Sennen earring of carpenters). Like the tattoo, piercings were also rediscovered in Europe. Initially common in subcultures such as punk and the gay-lesbian scene, they became universal in the 1990s. The belly button and the eyebrow ring came into fashion, as today plug-ins adorn many stretched earlobes.

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