Remembering Fakir Musafar
A few days ago on my daily commute, I spotted a picture in a newspaper over someone's shoulder. The shot showed a man standing in a collared shirt, pants, and tie; elbow propped up on a table and cigarette in hand. oh, and his waist was corseted and cinched into an infinity sign silhouette. This is the late Fakir Musafar, a body modification pioneer and all around cool guy. To commemorate his very recent passing, let's review his life and career.
Born in 1930, Fakir's known for his work in the modern primitive movement, which connects past cultures of body alteration (i.e. mysticism and hinduism) to the modern day. He claimed to have knowledge of past lives, plus psychometric and psychokinetic abilities, making him the coolest kid of all time. He developed an interest in anthropology that led him to explore practices like piercings, his first of which he performed on himself at age 12. He gave himself his first tattoo with his mom's sewing needles not much later, and designed his own corsets to create a 19 inch waist.
By day, he worked in advertising, using his real name and keeping his interests hidden. He made his practices public at a tattoo convention in 1977, and began evangelizing his body play gospel through publications and tv shows, plus in his own magazine and body modification school, which continues to educate piercers and other practitioners to this day.
His work was sometimes performative, like flesh hook suspension, which is when you get temporarily pierced so that you can hang from hooks in your skin. When his wife (kink educator Cléo Dubois) first saw a photo series ('Dances Sacred and Profane') of him performing this ritual, she instantly fell in love with him.
Fakir saw this body play as cathartic, spiritual, and sexual, and aimed to familiarize the public with his rituals. This quote from the Washington Post nails it: "To those who said his practices were too extreme, Mr. Musafar responded that his body modifications were only a few steps removed from yoga, sun tanning or the wearing of high heels, each of which he considered a form of 'body play.'" Even corseting has gone mainstream, used theatrically, to train a smaller waist (think Kardashian sponsored body modification Instagrams), in fashion, and, just a few feet more underground, for sensation and kink.
Fakir Musafar passed on August 1st, 2018 from lung cancer (read his farewell message here), but remains solidly in a legacy of body modification that spans from the fashionable and glamorous (think Mr. Pearl and Dita Von Teese) to the dark and intense (Shannon Laratt). He is survived by his wife, stepson, 2 siblings, cats, photographs, and message of the acceptance of higher power and use of the body as a divine medium. may he rest in peace!