In this video making the rounds, a woman named Marième, who lives in Senegal, goes to get her gums tattooed black. "I want black gums to obtain a more beautiful smile," she says. "It's become an obsession." Later, she admits: "I'm scared." As she should be! The procedure, which takes place outdoors using handmade needles and black powder made by burning oil and shea butter, is not for the faint of heart: Marième is in so much pain she cries and cannot get the seven layers of tattooing planned — she stops after four. "It hurts. I would never recommend this torture to anyone," she says.
But it's worth it, according to the woman doing the needlework:
"Less and less women are doing this, but some are still interested. Especially young women who are looking for a lover. Listen to me, tattooed gums and a silver tooth: that's what's attractive. A woman should not have red gums. Her gums need to be dark. A nice smile attracts men. A nice smile with white teeth."
Strange to us, perhaps, but no stranger than getting injections of the poison known as Botox, paying for someone to cut you open and install breast implants, or having your nose broken and reset during rhinoplasty. And it costs a lot less — Marième paid about a dollar.