Body art has become the norm. Tattooing is a common form of self expression and it seems everywhere you turn average people have become comfortable with piercing more risque parts of their body.
For Laurence Sessou, also known as Moniasse Artist Muse, scarification and tattoo art serves as the blueprint of her spiritual journey. We spoke to the London based model about why she decided to adorn herself with intricate scars and how people react to her body art.
Tell us more about yourself.
I was born in France and my roots are from the West African Republic Of Benin, I’ve been living in London UK for the past 16 years. I am a therapist and have been practicing Bodywork and Neuromuscular therapy for the past 10 years, I graduated from the University Of Westminster in 2007 with a Bsc Natural Therapeutics.
The artistry in front of the camera is fairly recent, I started modelling 4 years ago. Most of the images you see on my online profile are collaborations; shoots that I often organize. I love to be creative, pushing my versatility, so when I get ideas, I get a team together and we create magic. A photographer and now good friend once told me: ‘You are not a model. You are an artist Muse!’ that’s when I decided to change my title from Moniasse Model to Moniasse Artist Muse.
How do you define beauty?
I don’t think I have a definition for ‘Beauty’ all I know is I feel the most beautiful when I am able to fully embrace and accept myself.
What inspired you to begin with the scarification of your back and chest?
First of all I want things to be clear, I am only sharing my story, in no way I am trying to influence anyone in getting scarification, it is a very intense process and it is not for everybody.
My scars are a reflection of my spiritual growth and my connection to my ancestors. My spiritual path is called ‘red path’ it is a path that encourage us to connect to the origins of all things: water, fire, air, earth and all the beauty that mother Earth and every living beings have to offer.
We have a ritual or rite of passage called ‘Vision Quest’, during Vision Quest we get the amazing opportunity to be in nature by ourselves and connect. It is a great time to reflect and understand our purpose in life. It is a 4 years commitment where we get planted in a mountain for a certain amount of days with no food, no water, and no talking.
The first year is 4 days, the second year is 7 days, the third year is 9 days and the fourth year is 13 days.
When I did my 7 days Vision Quest, I started to get a better understanding of some of the symbols and the designs of our altar. I also felt a great connection to my grand mothers. It was time for me to create an alliance of my spiritual path with my ancestral history, that’s when the idea of the design for my back came to life. The journey with scarification started in July 2005
Iestyn did my scars; we discussed the design and worked together with it. I didn’t ask too many questions; all I knew is that I was going to be cut with a scalpel. I trusted Iestyn with his work, he was really experienced and totally dedicated; he knew my story and was more that willing to do a great job and he did, I am really pleased with the results.
What does the design of your scars on your back and chest represent?
My chest scar was performed at Shows Studios and filmed live by Nick Knight, it was supposed to be for a music video but was never used. I still haven’t seen the footage. The symbol on my chest has been inspired by the female reproductive system, the middle represent our beautiful clitoris.
My back scar is a map of my spiritual journey, my Vision Quest, my dream. The sacred cross in the middle is the ‘Chakana’ this is the place where we keep the fire of life. The four harrows represent the four nations and corners of the Earth. The flowers represent the medicine plant teachers. The spirals represent the infinity of possibilities. So I feel like I am carrying a dream on my back: seeing the four nations of this world enjoying the fire of life in harmony with nature under the care of Mother Earth.
How many tattoos do you have?
Both my arms and hands are tattooed, my hips and legs are in process.
How do people react to your scars and tattoos?
It depends, most of the time it’s ok. A bit of a shock at first and then tons of questions. ‘Curiosity’ isn’t a bad thing, I don’t mind that much, when you make a choice to modify your body in such a way, it comes with responsibility; That’s why I don’t mind doing interviews like this, I don’t mind sharing my experience, but sometimes I get really tired to be asked the same questions over and over again, especially the ‘Did it hurt?’ it’s a cut with a scalpel! Of course it hurts!!!
I don’t expect everyone to understand what I did but I feel uncomfortable when people behave as if I owed them an explanation for my choices, that’s when I can get a bit rude and stand offish, I owe nothing to no one.
How did your family react?
My family and close friends were fine with it; they know me very well. For them it totally makes sense. One of my sister’s doesn’t like it that much but she has never judged me for it and she loves me the same. I feel lucky to be in a family so diverse and accepting. My grand-father was a Chief and healer, my grand-mothers were shamanic dancers. Animism is the path my ancestors followed; they believed in life and energy in everything, they have a great respect for the Earth. I grew up seeing my mum and dad knelling on the floor and praying to their Altar. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my ancestry, I am very proud of it. And my family is very proud of me too.