Solomon Islands: Facial Scars

The Solomon Islands is a country comprised of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands. The country is named after the Melanesian island archipelago of the same name. The islands have been inhabited for thousands of years before the arrival of European colonialists.


Common among the many islands of this region is the tradition of tattooing or facial scarring. Facial scarring, known as “segesege,” involves incising the skin to achieve scars that form a traditional pattern. Because of the encroachment of Western cultural expectations, ritual tattooing and facial scarring in the Solomon Islands is becoming less common nowadays. Most often performed on children, this ritual is a rite-of-passage, or initiation into adulthood. It is often done by a family member as part of an elaborate ceremony, during which the parents of the child being scarred give gifts to others. Besides welcoming the child to adulthood, this ritual also raises the parents’ social status in the community.