Roland Loomis (1930 – 2018), professionally known as Fakir Musafar, was an American performance artist, publisher, and photographer considered to be one of the founders of the modern primitive movement. (Modern primitives are people in developed, modern, post-colonial nations who engage in body modification rituals and practices inspired by the ceremonies, rites of passage, and/or bodily ornamentation in what they consider “primitive cultures”.) He gave himself the name Fakir Musafar in 1977.
In 1966 or 1967 he first performed a flesh hook suspension, inspired by his viewing of anthropological works.
In 1977, he and Richard Simonton (also known as Doug Malloy) helped Jim Ward start the piercing magazine Piercing Fans International Quarterly (PFIQ). PFIQ was a controversial publication, due to its graphic portrayal of nudity and the piercing process. In some countries it was considered obscene, and confiscated by postal customs officials. It ceased publication in 1997.
In the 1985 documentary Dances Sacred and Profane Fakir was shown walking while wearing a device that pressed many small skewers into his upper body, and hanging from a tree by hooks in his chest, in his modified versions of other cultures’ sacred ceremonies.
He was featured in the 1989 book Modern Primitives, which documented, propagated, and became influential in the modern body modification subcultures. The public knowledge of the term modern primitive is primarily due to the widespread popularity of this book. The book exposed several “underground” practices to a vastly greater public, including graphic images of genital piercing and genital bisection and scarification. However, the book also advanced numerous urban legends regarding the history and origin of body piercing, which remain widespread to this day, most notably Richard Simonton’s invented origins of various piercings. The 1989 piece Nailed was presented in conjunction with the release of the book; in Nailed, Bob Flanagan nailed his penis and scrotum to a board while singing “If I Had a Hammer.” Sheree Rose photographed the performance artist Genesis P-Orridge for the book. Also, the book was the subject of an obscenity trial in England. In November 1989, police seized a copy of it from London store The Book Inn, owned by bookseller Richard Waller. Magistrate Ian Baker ruled in 1991 that the book was not obscene.
In 1990 Fakir married Cléo Dubois.
From 1992 until 1999 he published the magazine Body Play and Modern Primitives Quarterly, which focused on body modification topics such as human branding, suspension, contortionism, binding, and modern piercing culture. He led “Fakir Intensives” training workshops on these topics in San Francisco.
For over five decades Fakir photographed his own adornments, modifications, and rituals, and those of others.
Awards and Legacy
The Leather Archives & Museum, founded in 1991, has a Fakir Musafar exhibit as a permanent exhibit.
The Berkeley University Bancroft Library and the Association of Professional Piercers have large archives of his work in photography, published writings, workshops, and BodyPlay magazines.
He has a memorial bench in Byxbee Park in Palo Alto that reads “Body is the door to Spirit”.