Understanding the ancient art of the Yoruba Tribal Marks….

Long before tattoos became a trend in expressing one’s self, the practice of tribal marks also known as scarification of the face was done by the Yoruba tribe in South Western Nigeria, Benin Republic, and Togo to identify themselves and their families.

These marks are not just decorative, but they also have a deep cultural significance.

History and Significance:

Yoruba tribal marks have a long and storied history that dates back centuries, with some claiming its origination from Egypt. Originally, these marks served as a form of identification, indicating the lineage, social status, and even tribal affiliations of individuals within the Yoruba community. They were typically administered during childhood, often as a rite of passage, and were considered a crucial aspect of a person’s identity.

Tribal marks were also believed to bestow protection and ward off evil spirits, enhancing an individual’s spiritual and physical well-being. Moreover, back then, they were seen as a symbol of beauty and a way to enhance one’s attractiveness within the Yoruba culture.

The marks are made by cutting or burning the skin, from simple to complex designs. Some of the most include:

  • Horizontal marks: 

These marks are typically made on the cheeks, and they can be either single or multiple. They are often used to indicate a person’s tribe or family.

  • Vertical marks: 

These marks are also typically made on the cheeks, and they can be either single or multiple. They are often used to indicate a person’s social status or rank.

  • Wavy marks: 

These marks are less common than horizontal or vertical marks, but they are still sometimes used. They are often used to indicate a person’s beauty or intelligence.

Here are some additional facts about Yoruba tribal marks:

  • The marks are usually made on children between the ages of 3 and 7.
  • The process of making the marks is often painful, but it is seen as a rite of passage.
  • The marks are made by a traditional scarifier, who uses a sharp knife or hot iron to make the cuts.
  • The marks are then allowed to heal, and they eventually become permanent scars.

While the practice of Yoruba tribal marks is diminishing and is still a debatable topic between the young and the old, efforts are being made to preserve and celebrate this ancient art form. Many cultural enthusiasts and historians are working to document the tradition, its historical significance, and the stories behind different marks. Museums and cultural centres have become essential in preserving artifacts and knowledge related to Yoruba tribal marks, helping to educate both locals and visitors about this unique aspect of Yoruba culture.

Do you have any question or comment? Do share with us in the comment section.

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