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Among the recurrent formal qualities that can be found in African sculpture, scarification, along with hairstyles, is generally represented
idealistically, implying its importance as a major aesthetic and cultural component. Among the Yoruba there is a "veritable connoisseurship" (Kerchache.1988.p280) bestowed upon scarification patterns in sculpture. Not only are they perceived as aesthetically pleasing, they are also
functional, for example indicating one's lineage. The criterion of suitability is a significant factor in scarification patterning. Scarification is
appropriate only to the human figure and not to the surface of pottery, although some of the patterns and forms are related.

Scarification, as a cultural activity, is widely performed across Africa. In essence, it is the practice of incising the skin with a sharp instrument, (such as a knife, glass, stone, or coconut shell) in such a way as to control the shape of the scar tissue on various parts of the body.
Cicatrisation is a special form of scarification, whereby a gash is made in the skin with a sharp instrument, and irritation of the skin caused by
applying caustic plant juices forms permanent blisters. Dark pigments such as ground charcoal or gunpowder are sometimes rubbed into the
wound to provide emphasis. These cuts, when healed, form raised scars, known as keloids. The most complicated cicatrisation was probably
found in the Congo Basin and neighbouring regions, and among the Akan speakers of West Africa.

Scarification is a long and painful process, and a permanent modification of the body, transmitting complex messages about identity and
social status. Permanent body markings emphasise fixed social, political and religious roles. Facial scarification in West Africa is used for
identification of ethnic groups, families, individuals, but also to express personal beauty. It is also performed on girls to mark stages of the life
process, such as puberty, marriage etc.
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