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Body Painting With Palpation Workshop. Delegate comments and report. Anatomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA) Conference 2019.

educational resource
posted on 01.09.2020 by Leonard Shapiro, Geney Gunston, Graham Louw

At the Anatomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA) 2019 conference, a 2.5-hour Body Painting with Palpation workshop was offered to participants and ten participants attended.

The workshop was interactive, and participants paired off and took turns to palpate each other’s upper limbs, identify anatomical features beneath the skin and then mark these features on the surface of the skin using brushes and different coloured washable dyes. The idea was not to make ‘art’ or aesthetically pleasing marks, but rather to achieve the closer observation of the anatomy. The making of marks on the skin was merely to reinforce and record what was being observed with palpation.

The advantage of these dyes is that they are transparent, which results in one layer of colour being visible through the next layer of colour. The implication is that anatomical features can be depicted relative to each other and at their various depths.

It is important for the participants to palpate their colleagues' anatomical part under investigation (such as the upper limb), in order to observe with touch what is under their skin, and then mark down in colour what they have observed. It is also vital that the anatomical part is treated as a 3D object and that palpation and mark-making take place ‘in the round’ and not only on one surface of the limb. In this way, the spatial layout of the anatomical part is taken into account and observed in all of its three dimensions. The idea is to use palpation and mark-making as a means of exploration, discovery and learning.


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Department of Human Biology, Division of Clinical Anatomy and Biological Anthology.

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