It would seem very unusual for me to have an intro if you have read my previous articles, which is why I have an experience to share with you that may or may not lead us to the point of this article. We normally have this family gathering, nothing serious just me, my mom and my sisters, where we just talk about several things going on with and around us. My mom usually being the one to always have something interesting to talk about brought up the issue of guys or girls with lots of tattoos and how much she didn’t like it. My sister made reference to what she(my mom) had on her face that looked very much like a tattoo. Long story short it was a tribal mark and she said she wasn’t going to get it because the process was painful but her mom had promised everyone fried-fish if they got it, she thought about how everyone was going to get fried-fish and she wasn’t, so she ended up getting the marks through a very painful process of direct hot iron from the fire.
My point is tribal marks in Africa especially Nigeria was a very big deal, it was a way of identification, sense of belonging to the African culture and most importantly beauty. Although it might sound ridiculous to have several cuts or marks on ones body or face, I literally get so mad when a pimple leaves a scar, imagine having someone intentionally draw marks on my precious face, but this was how beauty was perceived during that period, just the way mapping out your eyebrows and filling it up with a pencil might seem ridiculous to the previous or coming generations. The ways at which we beautify ourselves differs from time to time and people of different generations try as much as possible to explore and invent ways in which they can beautify themselves.
There are several reasons why it was important to have tribal marks, but one of the major reasons is that it was a way of identification, for instance in the Yoruba tribe alone, there are different sub tribes under it, there are the Igbominas, Egba, Ijebu, Ijesa and many more keep in mind that all these people speak different and sometimes very similar languages and have different cultures but are all still Yoruba people. The question now is how do you know who is who? Through their tribal marks while the Ondo people had marks that looked like a plain 1, the Ile-Ife people bore 3 longitudinal lines, just like that several other clans had their own patterns.
Tribal marks as we all know now is on the verge of total extinction, no one gives tribal marks anymore and even the people that still have it go through lengths( like make-up) to make sure it is invincible. Regardless of this, tribal mark is a very beautiful thing. In the past generations, they believed a person with tribal mark was cultured and could never go missing. Although, in this present generation no one wants to give their children tribal marks because of the painful process and the permanent scar. Tribal marks even if it is not on our faces would continue to be a part of our culture.