"he had filed teeth"
Boy with filed teeth, German East Africa (c. 1906-18)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBoy with filed teeth, German East Africa (c. 1906-18) - Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 105-DOA0799 / Walther Dobbertin / CC-BY-SA

Teeth filing or sharpening is a traditional rite of passage within many sub-Saharan African tribes. The procedure, which involves chipping and filing the teeth with a small chisel, is usually carried out when the child is about fifteen years old and able to bear the pain, since it is performed without anaesthetic. In some tribes, teeth filing is carried out just prior to marriage.

 

 

Tribespeople of Bopoto, Northern Congo with sharpened teeth (c. 1912)
Public DomainTribespeople of Bopoto, Northern Congo with sharpened teeth (c. 1912) - Credit: Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston