banned beauty

Heba Khamis

2016 - Ongoing


Early in the morning before the spirits wake up. She prepares the bath and heat a stone. wake up her daughter. Massages the daughter’s breasts with the stone before her daily bath to go to school.That’s the daily routine for some mothers in Diang village in East Cameron.

Mothers find their happiness in seeing their kids in a good health, waiting for the day their daughters grow up start having breasts and period, as a sign of being a lady. In Cameroon it’s an alert of a nightmare will start for the mothers.

Early marriage, teenage mother and rape are common words there. One out of five girls, is a teenage mother in Cameroon. As a way of protection when the girl start to have a breast her mother or grand- mother heat a stone and massage the breasts to melt the fats and make it disappear, believing that breast ironing will postpone their development and men will not be enticed by their breasts.

In Cameroon girls are beginning to hit puberty as young as seven, and are subject to the practice around at the same age.

For the mothers breast ironing is a way to demonstrate their love and protect their daughters. To hurt in order to protect is a way of showing love. Each village has it’s own way of breast ironing, using different tools.

Cameronians do breast ironing at home secretly. it was hidden for many years until

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  • Kamini tontines, 12 years old. is hiding her breasts after having them ironed by her mother. Early Marriage, teenage single mother and rape are common words in Cameroon. As a way of protection when the girl's breasts start to develop, the mother or the grandmother heat a stone and message the breasts to melt the fats and make them disappear so men will not be enticed by them.

  • Marianne, 13 years old. Her grandmother started to do breasts ironing to her one month before this image. By pressing the breast with a stick and wooden bowl.
    ATTACHING the two images separately after

  • Kenmeni, is bandaging her daughter's breasts after ironing them for her. she believes that her needs to grow up and have a strong body first before having breasts.

  • Suzanne, 11 years old, experienced breast ironing couple of months before that image until her breast totally gone.

  • Veronica (28), is massaging her daughter’s, Michelle (10) breasts with a stone while her younger daughter, Friquaine (seven) and the twins are watching.Veronica, started to do breast ironing seven months before this image was taken. her older daughter refused to have her breasts ironed and had a baby at age of 15 from her classmate.

  • Suzanne, 11 years old, is posing with her mother Cecile.
    Cecile did breast ironing to Suzanne twice after cooking, using a hot stone until breasts were gone.
    ATTACHING the two images separately after

  • Noopiote- Justine is massaging her 11 years old daughter's breasts with a warm stone. Cameroonians do breast ironing secretly at home. feeling ashamed that their daughter already had breasts and does breast ironing.

  • Gaelle, (27), is posing with her daughter.
    Gaelle’s mother started to iron her breasts at age of nine, with a hot stone and made her sleep with a tight bandage.
    One of her breasts is bigger than the other, getting hot sometimes.
    At the age of 16 she had her first child.
    ATTACHING the two images separately after

  • Wetshibi is posing for the camera after having her breasts massaged with a stone. To keep them small and beautiful.
    It has been three years since her mother started to massage her two - three times a day.

  • One of the methods, is to heat the stone on a grill after cooking and message the breasts with it.

  • Sandra, 13. When she turned eight and her breasts started to develop, for continuous five days, Sandra’s mother was massaging her breasts with a wooden spoon for one hour until they were gone.
    on the left is a drawing by Sandra for herself.
    ATTACHING the two images separately after

  • Breast ironing includes many different methods and tools, that differ from village to village. Wooden spoon and stone are the most common ones.