Why Africans Have Tribal Marks

Going down the memory lane, the practice of tribal marks is as old as man and not peculiar to only Africans. It major or original purpose is for identifying members of a clan, community, tribe, and family in case of disaster or war outbreak. While other things like language can serve the same purpose, tribal marks are outward features that can easily be seen by anyone even without the carriers’ awareness. Tribal marks don’t come easy. They are made through scarification techniques with instruments like razors or sharp objects used to make cuts on faces or other parts of the bodies. Native dye from charcoal is then applied to prevent the skin from closing up during healing.

You Should Know Why You Have That Tribal Mark on Your Face

In Nigeria, tribal marks have always been an important part of our culture. Yoruba land is one of the cradles of this practice. Tribal marks have four major uses, not peculiar to the Yoruba’s alone. 

Identification: Identity is key and tribal marks help to achieve this. During the war, disaster, ceremony, and social events, tribal marks sever as a branding mechanism, which helps to know who is who. So, people have different types of marks according to their villages and families’ origin.

Religion and Spiritual Protection: Facial tribal mark, in particular, can be a form of ritual and protection from evil forces, death, or calamity. In some parts of Yoruba land tribal marks on the face are believed to grant spiritual power to children and stop infant death known as “Abiku”.

Healing: In Yoruba land and Nigeria as a whole, marks are associated with healing. Though unusual, it is real. Traditional healers make small marks on sick individual faces, necks, and other parts of the body for quick recovery. It is called “Igbere.” It is also believed that through that, calamity is chased far from such a fellow. It is used to treat children with measles, pneumonia, and convulsion.

Beautification: Yes, in the olden day, you are not beautiful without tribal marks on. It is believed that it makes people, especially female folk, look more attractive when ripe for marriage.

Here Are Some of the Tribal Marks in Yoruba Land

Pele: This style is distinguishable by three long lines on each cheek.  There are other varieties called the Pele Ife, Pele Ijebu, and Pele Ijesha.

Owu: The Owu marks comprise of six cuts on each cheek. This type of marking is used by the inhabitants of Owu, a historical city in Abeokuta in Ogun State, Nigeria.

Gombo: The Gombo consists of a collection of lines – short and curved half an inch apart on both sides of the mouth. It is also referred to as Keke. The people of Ogbomsho in Oyo State use this type of markings.

Abaja: It has both basic and complex style.  The simplistic style is three or four horizontal lines on both cheeks. It can also include six lines on either cheek.