The Kabuki of Japan, for example, is a traditional form of entertainment featuring ‘singing, dancing and skill.’ The dancers are famous for their elaborate face-paint.This type of entertainment in turn gave rise to the traditional circus clowns that we all know today. There are many types of clowns depending on which part of the world you’re in, and professional clowns take great pride in designing their own unique make-up, because it’s integral to their identity.Shamanistic rituals the world over have involved the use of face and body painting for millennia.
Wearing face-paint to war has not always been about camouflage, but also about identifying warrior bands and frightening the enemy.
For example, movies like Braveheart depict the blue ‘woad’ paint as a Celtic staple.
By the late Elizabethan era, both men and women were using face-paint, beauty spots and rouge to alter their appearance.
This bizarre practice would ultimately evolve into the cosmetics used today.
And it wasn’t just used to intimidate the foe, but also to denote status within the tribe, and to grant the wearer special powers.
The designs of Native American face-paint varied from tribe to tribe; for example, the Akicita used a lightning bolt pattern, which they believed made their warriors faster.
Although it wasn’t used as recently as that movie suggests, blue face-paint was certainly used by Scottish and Irish warriors for many centuries.
It was the fearsome appearance of Scottish clansmen that led to the Romans constructing Hadrian’s Wall in 122 AD, to separate Roman-occupied Britain from the wild highlands of the north.
This article seeks to redress the balance, by looking at the history of face-painting, from its beginnings in ancient warrior societies through to modern usage.
The history of face-painting dates back thousands of years, and has been used for all manner of purposes: camouflage for hunting, war paint for intimidating the enemy, magical designs for use in religious ceremonies, and, of course, beautification.
Even today, in religions such as Hinduism, face-painting is widely employed.