Belly Art as Sites of Resistance

Want something to brighten your day? Check out this article about belly art: (Maternity Trend)! This article is from 2009 but the trend is still around, with a quick internet search yielding many results for how to hire a belly artist, and suggestions of themes!

I have chosen a few images below of some pretty great and often very cheeky and comical belly art:

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Many websites and parenting books talk about how to avoid “ugly”, “dreaded stretch marks”. I think that by painting their bellies, pregnant women are able to reclaim, in an empowering and humorous way, their “undesirable” bodies (What To Expect: Stretch Marks). The Tiv people of West Africa mark their bodies through scarification (Bohannam, 1956).  An underlying mechanism for desirability among the Tiv is the idea that, in order to be beautiful, you can make people look twice at you. Pain as a result of scarification is worthy of attention from the Tiv but so are the designs left on the skin, eye-catching, with “glowing” skin (Bohannam, 1956).

Stretch marks are very common for women during and after pregnancy and childbirth: 8 out of 10 women will get stretch marks during pregnancy (NHS Stretch Marks). However, women are compelled to treat their stretch marks and try to erase any lasting signs of pregnancy. For example there are many online forums about beating, fighting, fixing, erasing stretch marks after pregnancy (See this article about preventing stretch marks: It is a noteworthy paradigm: the pressure for women to have babies but the expectation that pregnancy does not alter their body, or that these body changes are negative and “ugly”.

Women’s bellies then become a site of resistance and of ownership through ‘rebelly’ art. The size of their stomach becomes something that must be seen, appreciated, and like Tiv scarificaion understood as beautiful (Bohannan, 1956). I certainly can’t look away.


Bohannan, P. (1956), Beauty and Scarification amongst the Tiv,’ Man volume 129: 117-121.

And if you still want even more imagees of belly art this blog has some hilaour and beaitufl images:



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