Over the years women in the country of Senegal are tattooing their gums black to achieve a more beautiful smile. The women of the said West African country inherited the custom from their ancestors and believe it will help the eligible women to attract men.
Tattooed black gums are especially popular in small towns and villages like Thies, in Senegal. There, the women practice this ancient tradition to achieve a smile that is considered to be more attractive. However, the process is really painful. The procedure was not well known internationally until recently, when a video emerged showing a woman called Mariéme who goes under the needle.
It is evident from the said video that the woman who administered the tattoo did not work out of a parlor, but from the backyard of her home. Moreover, she herself does not do it for the money, but for the love of it. She charges little over $1 for her work and believes that black-tattooed gums are the way to achieve sound dental health, free from gum bleeding and foul breath, as well as to achieve a more attractive smile.
For doing tattoo the woman uses a black mixture, obtained by burning oil and Shea butter. The customer places her head on the woman’s lap and the mixture is generously applied to her gums. Thus, when the stage is ready, a sharp, needle-like instrument is repeatedly poked into the gums of the customer. As a result, the gums turn black, due to the administration of the said black dye. This is done in several layers, and by the time the job is finished, the customer is in a whole world of pain. Seven layers were planned for Marieme, but she began to struggle right from the beginning and said that she would never recommend this torture to anybody else. She also said that the process really hurts and during the process, she thought that she was going to die, but she just tried to hang on. Finally, instead of seven, she got only four layers done, and has no regrets now. However, that is natural, because now she has beautiful black gums.
According to the gum tattoo-artist, now a day less and less women are tattooing for black gums. But some are still interested. Especially young women, who are looking for a lover. She also maintains that, a woman should not have red gums. For perfection, her gums need to be dark. A nice smile attracts men. That’s all it takes for some women in Senegal to be happy.