Karim Boumjimar has had his nipples and belly button surgically removed – here, he explains why
It can sometimes feel like there aren’t that many taboos left be broken. Tattoos and piercings are no longer symbols of teen rebellion but family-friendly fashion trends. Body modification, however, still retains the ability to shock. Enter Karim Boumjimar, aka @beigetype, the 18-year-old Spanish-Moroccan London-based artist who has had his nipples and belly button surgically removed, and is selling them as art.
Shortly after surgery, Boumjimar uploaded photos of his nipples (which he’s made into earrings) onto Instagram, along with photos of his bare, nipple-free chest using foundation and “sometimes latex and Typex” to hide the scars. “I got rid of my nipples and I’m selling them,” he captioned a photo of his nipples, which now resemble pieces of dried mango. “My belly button necklace is coming soon :-)”
Why did he do this? To get attention? To make a statement? Or is it just a hoax? We contacted Boumjimar to ask him to explain – in his own words.
Speaking to him, it becomes apparent that Boumjimar’s body modifications are a part of how he expresses his identity. They also relate, in some way, to his artistic practice – he says, for example, that he drew inspiration from the Mona Lisa, Cyprus-born performance artist Stelarc, and the idea that we’re all born with the same anatomy – like a blank canvas – which we can alter or modify as we wish. Here, he explains more.
So I guess the first question is why did you choose to get your nipples and belly button removed?
Karim Boumjimar: I wanted to alter my body. You know the painting Mona Lisa?
Karim Boumjimar: Well, she has no eyebrows or eyelashes. It’s really interesting how da Vinci meticulously paid attention to every single detail but chose not to give her eyebrows or the eyelashes. And then it came to me – I could do the same thing with my body. We are all born with the same anatomy, and we all have the basic human structure, I just think that it’s really interesting how we all absorb that and play with the idea of how our bodies should look, we are all given the same materials (our bodies) and decide whether we want to alter or modify what we are given. Our bodies are our representations of how we are as humans. It’s like when you are in a lesson, and people start off with same objects but each one of them makes something different. They started off with the same object at the beginning but at the end, everyone has a different outcome, so as humans we all have the same anatomy and I decided to do what I want with mine.
Okay. Are there any kind of body modifications artist that you were inspired by?
Karim Boumjimar: There’s this artist called Stelarc and he’s so inspiring, he attached an ear to his left arm. He uses his body as his main medium, but also uses technology. He has done so many performances in which he attaches technological devices to his body, and I find that really interesting.
And how long have you wanted to get rid of your nipples and belly button?
Karim Boumjimar: Not that long. I think that the internet has had an impact on my life choices. Now I think way differently to how I did before. So many people on the online have their own communities and friends that support them. That has been so different for me because it has always been me and that’s why I focus so much on self-portraiture because it has always been about me. As I said I had an article in Paper magazine as well a few days ago, and I said that I am my main medium.
What do you mean?
Karim Boumjimar: Narcissism is my main medium. That’s what I have been doing and that’s what I’m going to do. I don’t think I have to include people in my life, I have a few friends I guess. My Instagram is just about me and that’s how I want it to be. It’s not so self-absorbed but at the same time, it is.
Okay, so back to your nipples. How did you go about getting them removed? Like how do you get a doctor, or whoever, to do it?
Karim Boumjimar: I contacted my friend on Facebook, Tijana, she was talking about how you can get it done in her country, Bosnia. I’m probably going to go back there this summer to get more body alterations.
What more do you want to get?
Karim Boumjimar: I don’t know, maybe something with my feet.
“They just gave me so many drugs and at the end they gave me my nipples” – Karim Boumjimar
Your feet? Like what?
Karim Boumjimar: Like, attach something to them. Because I don’t want to cut my tongue or do something like that. I don’t think that’s something that appeals to me.
And the process of getting your nipples removed – did it hurt, how long did it take?
Karim Boumjimar: I don’t know, it wasn’t really done legally, I mean it was legal, but not so legal. They just gave me so many drugs and at the end they gave me my nipples. Tijana was there throughout the whole process.
Where you unconscious or were you conscious?
Karim Boumjimar: While they did it?
Karim Boumjimar: Oh no, no, no, I was unconscious.
Okay. And you had your belly button taken out at the same time, right?
Karim Boumjimar: Yeah.
And what about afterwards? Were you in quite a lot of pain?
Karim Boumjimar: Yes, yes. But my friend was sick and was given really strong drugs for the pain, and they make you sleep. I forgot the name but it’s like codeine. And he gave me some of them because he had quite a few. So I took those. By the time I modelled for Charles Jeffrey, the process was over, but I kept it to myself. I had so many pictures on my iPhone, so sometimes when I wanted to seem a bit normal, I just posted really old pictures. So I could be posting pictures from last year, but also posting pictures from yesterday.
Okay. So that was actually one of my questions, because obviously on your Instagram, there are no signs of scars. Are those old pictures or have you photoshopped them?
Karim Boumjimar: Yeah with some of them. But I use so much make-up too, like I put so much make-up onto them. Whenever I take a selfie, it’s almost like a mini photo-shoot, like even a single picture in the bathroom could mean tonnes of make-up.
And what have you got there now? Have you got scars and everything?
Karim Boumjimar: Yeah, they are still healing. But I don’t know, bio-oil doesn’t work (laughs).
And how much did you pay to get them removed?
Karim Boumjimar: It was nearly like £200 to get there, and then because I was in Zayn Malik’s video I also got paid for that. I had some money because I did a Facebook advert a year ago, and I got paid like £2,000 pounds for that.
You were Zayn Malik’s video?
Karim Boumjimar: Yeah.
“I was watching a video of a girl who has three boobs. She was talking about how she doesn't need anyone's validation and she knows she has three boobs And that's pretty much how I feel” – Karim Boumjimar
Karim Boumjimar: “BeFoUr”.
Obviously, people might not believe you when you say you have had your nipples removed. People might think you’re fucking with us. So is it real or is it a hoax?
Karim Boumjimar: Oh, no no it’s real.
What would you say to people who think that you are joking or maybe that what you are doing this for social media attention?
Karim Boumjimar: Two days ago I was at home watching videos on YouTube and, somehow, ended watching a video of a girl who has three boobs. I’ve forgotten her name, but she’s pretty famous I think. She was talking about how she doesn’t need anyone’s validation and she knows she has three boobs. And that’s pretty much how I feel. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone because at the end of the day, it’s my body.
Do you think you will ever regret it?
Karim Boumjimar: Yeah, definitely. But I will totally laugh about this when I’m 50.
I’m aware that when we publish this article, while some people will think it’s cool, some people might think it’s quite strange.
Karim Boumjimar: You mean I’ll get hate.
Yeah, you might. How do you feel about getting hate?
Karim Boumjimar: When I get hate it gives me more concepts to work on, on how people perceive me. Because if they like me straight away, then they are not going to give me any feedback on my work or my social networks.
So you kind of think that people’s hate can be beneficial to your artistic practice?
Karim Boumjimar: Yeah, it really does, everyday. It doesn’t really affect me to the extend that would make me depressed. Because there are two types of hate, one type helps you and the other type you can’t even laugh at, you just move on and don’t even pay attention to it because of how hateful it is.
How do your body modifications, your nipples and your belly button, how does that relate to your artwork?
Karim Boumjimar: Well, I consider my Instagram as an artwork. My body modifications don’t really relate to my artwork, but they do relate to my identity. For example, today I was speaking to my friend and I was like, ‘When you have no nipples and belly button, you swim faster.’
Karim Boumjimar: Yeah.
Does it really make a big difference?
Karim Boumjimar: Yeah, like when you are a bit hairy.
Oh yeah, I can understand that.
Karim Boumjimar: So it’s the same thing with belly buttons, because it makes you faster.
So are you faster now?
Karim Boumjimar: Yeah, and I think I’m trying to get to the Olympics (laughs).
How fast can you swim?
Karim Boumjimar: Well, in Spain (I used to live in southern Spain, like Marbella) I had a swimming pool. I really want to go this summer and test if it's true or not.
Okay. So now you are selling your nipples and your belly button, right?
Karim Boumjimar: Yeah. But the belly button is not ready yet. The nipples are.
And you are selling them as earrings, is that right?
Karim Boumjimar: I’m selling them as earrings, but the nipples actually have earrings, so they are more like an artwork, but you can actually attach them to your ear.
And why are you selling them?
Karim Boumjimar: I always try to sell my pieces because I don’t want to get attached to them. I try to get rid of them, so I don't feel any kind of emotion towards them.
How much are you selling them for?
Karim Boumjimar: I haven’t decided. But I'm going to put it on my page as soon as I set a price. I also have to speak with Tijana about all this. I think it’s going to be around £100, or I could try and sell them for £500 or £1,000 pounds. I’d like to sell them for a big amount, so I can actually get the money that I spent on the surgery.