Blog by the artist Sanne Kabalt


there’s a place

or a culture


it is a habit

a ritual

to blacken one finger

if someone you were close to

passed away

this is a way of making 

the blackening, the rotting, the dying away 

of a part of you

which is happening inside

visible on the outside

the idea is that 

people will see your hand and

they will know of this

and of course

you don’t want them to 

ignore you or be afraid

or overload your with unwanted sympathy



it is 

in this 

place and culture

assumed that people who see your black finger

will know 

what to do

and it saves the mourners

from having to explain

again and again

that they are not ok

that they lost something vital

the finger represents 

the rotting, the dying, the blackening

it might be that it is much bigger

than the finger itself

of course

and wait

what happens when you lose the second loved one

and the third

and your hands become blacker and blacker

or when you have no fingers left to blacken

would you volunteer other body parts? 

or what if your skin was black in the first place

no skin is black-black

not as black as undiluted ink

but still

the black suffering would be less visible than the white

that can’t be right

would you make your finger white then? 

an exchange

and something else

is the blackening permanent

or does it fade away

as the suffering does

but what if the suffering does not

fade, I mean

maybe after some time has passed 

you can paint a different colour over the black

if you feel that is more right  



well clearly

I am wondering about this

the black fingers

I am wondering if it helps

I want to know

how it works

so I ask


all kinds

I ask google


but it seems I have made this up

or someone has made it up

and I can’t remember who

nor does anyone else

what I do find is that

in some elections

they use

semi-permanent ink based on silver nitrate

they apply it to your finger

when you vote

it prevents you to vote double

excessive exposure to this ink 

can cause an illness 

called argyria

which is devided into 

local argyria 

or general argyria

the affected body parts turn greyish purple

in general argyria this spreads to 

pretty much all of the body

also I find henna

used for brides

voters and brides

rather than mourners

though you can be all three

at the same time

and then

the closest I come

are dead faraos in ancient egypt

their fingertips were dipped into dye


a symptom of the plague

black death

black fingers

and then a famous popsinger

performed with blackened fingertips

as if a messenger

from that place

this culture

I cannot find.

Sanne Kabalt