Three Boys from Haiti Become Pa Wowo — the Body Painting Photo of the Year

by Christopher Agostino

I know it’s only March, but I think I’m ready to declare this the best body painting photo I am going to see this year. Photographed by Phyllis Galembo, for her book Maske. I saw it in an article in the April 2012 National Geographic Magazine, along with ten others from the more than one hundred photos in her book of masqueraders from Africa and the African Diaspora.



Not all masquerades require masks, or occur in Africa. In the Haitian port city of Jacmel three boys become Pa Wowo—painted, coconut-leaf-skirted peasants who personify poverty—for the spring carnival.” —from the accompanying text by Cathy Newman.

This is the true art of transformation—body art and masks used to make a social statement within a cultural context—this is true art, in the original social function for why there is art, before art became a means of decoration and personal expression in a Western context. Nothing I’ve ever painted for a competition, demonstration or in the studio holds a candle to the real thing like this.

See my fine art bodypainting at

One comment on “Three Boys from Haiti Become Pa Wowo — the Body Painting Photo of the Year

  1. TransGoblin says:

    What do they use to colour their skin green?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *