Tribal marks are marks drawn on the face or the body especially common in the Yoruba land in Nigeria for identification and scarification. Tribal marks comes with its own household design. Some are being differentiated my the number of lines on the face or how long the line is being drawn on the face or the position the tribal mark is on the face.
Tribal marks is not only limited to the Yoruba land alone, some Northerners in Nigeria too have tribal marks and theirs is being differentiated by states.
It is believed that the use of tribal marks on the continent increased during the period of the Atlantic Slave trade. Tribe members being shipped off as slaves to foreign countries were marked to identify them should they ever be rescued or freed – permanent signatures of their heritage. Tribal and clan wars, beauty, witchcraft and superstitious beliefs were also among the reasons for marking.
The primary function of the tribal marks is for identification of a person’s tribe or family and it is a key factor to the people’s survival and existence.
Basically there are about three tribal majorly, which are;
The Pele style is four horizontal lines, about a quarter of an inch long inscribed on the cheeks on both sides of the mouth. It exists in two different formats, horizontal and vertical, which further consist of three versions.
The Gọmbọ style, also known as Kẹkẹ, consists of multiple straight and curved lines about a half of an inch long inscribed on the cheeks cheeks on both sides of the mouth. Indigenes of Ogbomosho in Oyo State are usually identified by the Gombo or Kẹkẹ style of Yoruba tribal marks.
The Abaja style consists of twelve horizontal lines, six lines per cheek. It is often referred to as “Abaja Alaafin Mefa Mefa”. This tribal mark is unique to the indigenes of Oyo, Nigeria.
But now the use of tribal marks has gone into extintion even though it the process of cutting the marks is really painful.
The use of tribal marks as a means of identification and beautification among the Yoruba tribe is no longer a norm and some Yoruba states have enacted certain laws that prohibit the use of the marks. Violators of the law are liable for fines or imprisonment. In Oyo State, for example, the prohibition of tribal marks is an integral part of the state Child Right Law, a law that imposes a fine or one-month imprisonment or both for violation.According to the law “No person shall tattoo or make a skin mark or cause any tattoo or skin mark to be made on a child”.
The lifestyle today has exposed youths to Western culture which is sometimes at odds with Nigeria’s values and beliefs. This can be observed in our dress and food culture as well as societal interactions.
Young men and women, celebrities, and On screen personalities, to mention but a few, are drawn to wearing a tattoo. Tattoo as an art comes in different patterns and they are quite fashionable. In spite of this, some people consider individuals who wear body arts irresponsible.
The embrace of tattoo as a trend is common among the youths shouldn’t be surprising because tattoos are clearly portrayed in American movies and western pop culture music videos.
No matter the side of the divide you belong, making a fashion statement is pertinent. But, what kind of fashion statement are you making?
Tribal Marks and Tattoos are running parallel. Both show the generational gap between the aged and the young. Bridging this gap seems impossible as Modernity continue to rage like wildfire consuming almost all Nigerian Traditional and cultural practice. that were once held dear to our hearts.